Sunday, September 28, 2014

Adventures in Residence Denial Part 2: In Which Bureaucracy Isn’t As Scary As It Seems




Due to the fact that my decision letter was written entirely in Swedish, I couldn’t read it right away. After a sufficient amount of panicking I came back to the dorm and turned to Google Translate (for as much shit as I give Google Translate for being truly sub-par, I figured it would serve well enough in this situation).

Google Translate helped me to confirm that the folks at the embassy had, indeed, decided I had not adequately proved sufficient funding to survive in Sweden, sans bridge and pan-handling. The specific cause for this being that my evidence of financial aid from my home university was “unclear” as to how much of said aid would be going to tuition and how much would be left over for living expenses. I would like to note that it was quite clear, in the little section where it listed a break-down of how the aid would be dispersed, including tuition and estimated living expenses. However, the embassy disagreed with me, so I had to go about proving them wrong. Which, considering the fact that my financial aid had since been revised to include studying abroad, I figured couldn’t be too hard. (Aside: at the time of my application submission it had not accounted for studying abroad, as the University of Oregon is currently in the process of perfecting the art of dragging its feet. This whole experience has, I believe, given me the authority to say that they have, in fact, damn near perfected it).

I went to see my contact person at Uppsala U. the next day, sitting down at her desk to find myself in one of the very rare situations where a person genuinely hopes they are not, indeed, a special snowflake and they are, on the contrary, one of at least dozens if not hundreds of people this has happened to before. “I figured I can’t be the only person this has happened to,” I said after explaining the situation.

She assured me that this has happened before and went on to explain that, for reasons she could not comprehend, the embassy always sent her copies of all of the letters of acceptance for Uppsala students but never sent copies of the denials. Unlike the lovely gentleman at Migrationsverket, she seemed utterly unsurprised that I had not been contacted with the decision.

Because I hadn’t had my visa in hand when I moved to Sweden, I had printed out a copy of all of the documents that I had submitted with my application, just in case something went wrong while I was trying to get into the country. This included a copy of my revised financial aid statement, luckily enough since I didn’t yet have access to a printer (the statement needed to have my name on it to be considered valid, but I could only get my name on a printed copy, not, say, if I saved it onto my computer to be attached to an email later. Because logic). So my contact person was able to scan the paper and email it to me.

“Just email them with this attached document,” she told me. “Put in the subject of your email ‘appeal’ and include your case number. If you know who looked at your case, email them directly, because they will already be familiar with your documents.”

I did this. I found the person’s name on the bottom of my letter and I emailed them directly. Along with the embassy in D.C. And Migrationsverket. And basically everyone else I thought might possibly have a hand in making a final decision on my appeal. I wrote them a very nice email – almost an entire page long email, since I no longer trusted them to actually read the documents for themselves and see how much was going to tuition and how much would be left over. I wrote out in excruciating detail where on the document you found specific figures (tuition, books, scholarships, living expenses) and proceeded to explain in further excruciating detail how to do the math with all of these figures to determine how much exactly was going to be left over to keep me from living under the aforementioned bridge. From there I explained yet more math to calculate whether or not I had the approved amount of money (I did) and then I did all of the math for them, explaining step by step what I was doing and why, to show that I, in fact, exceeded that amount by a couple hundred dollars.

Well, after reading through the email a solid four times, my heart racing like a gazelle with a lion on its heels, I wiped the sweat from my brow and hit “send.” Then I forced myself to walk away from the computer and do something else. Probably watch a movie or something, I would assume based on my astounding inability to be productive unless absolutely necessary in my early weeks in Sweden.

It only took two days before I received an email stating, more or less, “OK fine, you can have your goddamn visa.” (I am, of course, paraphrasing.)

And thus I became a totally legit, wholly legal foreign exchange student at Uppsala University.


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