The Rio de Janeiro trip was starting to take shape.
The flights were booked. After a lot of back and forth with potential airbnb landlords, I had FINALLY found and secured an affordable apartment in Leblon Beach. (Heads up: Rio is really expensive.) Now there was nothing to do but research all the local dive bars and figure out how to get to the Christ the Redeemer statue.
I cuddled up with my Lonely Planet city guide, ready to take notes. And then I noticed something interesting in the introduction:
“Before dashing off to Brazil, find out whether you need a visa. Many nationalities require them, including citizens from the US.”
A hasty Google search revealed that Brazil visas can only be obtained at the consulate or by mail. (Some countries, like Argentina, allow you to get a visa at the airport upon arrival.) Mail applications take anywhere from 10 days to six weeks to process – time you’d be without your passport.
Officials recommend you wait until your visa is secured to book your flight and hotel.
ARE YOU FRICKING KIDDING ME?
I had already spent hours researching this trip but somehow I had completely missed this tiny detail. The closest Brazilian consulate is a four-hour drive away and I have zero vacation time to spare. There might be enough time to get the visa by mail, but I need my passport for an upcoming conference in Toronto.
I got a sneaking suspicion that this visa would cost me significantly more than the $180 embassy fee.
After some desperate pleas for recommendations for a visa expedition service on Twitter, Google + and Facebook, two friends pointed me to ItsEasy.com, a visa and passport agency based in New York. They offer a rush Brazil visa service for $99.
I hit up their chat and asked them every single question I could imagine before trusting them with my passport and hundreds of dollars.
- How fast is the rush service? About 12 business days.
- Do those 12 business days start the day I send or the day they receive the passport and application? Day they receive.
- Does that estimate include shipping time? Yes.
- Do I have to also pay for shipping? Yes.
- Ugh. How much? $25.
- Each way? Yes.
- Are you kidding me? No. Perhaps you should make it a habit to check the State Department’s international travel page BEFORE booking a flight.
(Alright, they didn’t say the last part. That’s what I was thinking.)
Monday night I gathered the required paperwork and posed for some unflattering passport-sized photos at Walgreens. Tuesday I filled out the online Brazil visa application. (Warning: You can’t save your progress along the way and the site apparently gets squirrely when accessed from anything but Internet Explorer on a PC.)
And then I sent ItsEasy.com $618 (!!!!) for two expedited Brazil visas, including shipping and processing fees.
Wednesday I received confirmation that ItsEasy.com received my application packet. They already took the money out of my credit card account. We’ll see what happens….
[Update: The Brazil visa arrived safe and sound less than two weeks after I sent my information to ItsEasy. I’m very happy with their services. I just wish I hadn’t had to use them!]