Getting a Visa: Expat Insights

Visa on Passport

Visas: sometimes more months in the waiting than in the using

Wendie Vandenbeusque may have moved to Malta relatively hassle free, but being able to work here legally was a different matter. Her personal insight shows how complex and tiring the Visa process is for nationals of non-EU countries seeking employment here.

When we left Minnesota to move to Malta I really thought I had done my homework. After hours of research figuring out what steps we needed to take so that we were not deported, or kicked out of the EU for up to five years, I really felt confident that I knew what it would take to live and work in another country.

Getting a job
Once we arrived, it took me nearly five months to find a job. Because I am a business professional with a college education, it was very important to show that I had skills that set me apart from a prospective Maltese candidate. This is important in any country of course, including the United States; jobs should first go to the people of that country. Luckily for me, I found a company that needed a US English writer with the defined set of skills that I had to offer.

Getting my Visa
At that time of my job offer, my husband and I had recently returned from a short holiday in Tunisia, so our travel visa had been updated. This was fortunate as my employer would not have been able to apply for a work permit for me if this travel visa had expired.

The paperwork was endless, but was finally completed and submitted. Then I just had to wait for the application to be approved or denied. My job had been due to start almost immediately, so you can imagine how impatient I felt when I found out that the work permit could take up to three months to be approved. It felt like an endless wait. My consolation was that it happened to be summer at the time so I could enjoy soaking up the sun, writing my novel and keeping busy with all the new friends we’d made.

The work permit was approved in a record time – just seven weeks – which is amazing as Americans are third-country nationals. A third country national is someone who is from a country that is not part of the EU. However, the approval was just the beginning of a new roller coaster ride that wasn’t fun at all.

We ended up with a grand total of 12 visits to the office of Citizenship and Expatriate Affairs. I only attended four meetings (having been turned away twice as I did not have the necessary paperwork with me), but by the time the whole process was over, my husband must have talked to every person who works there!

Spousal Visa (not that easy!)
We were quickly educated in the ways of the Citizenship and Expatriate Affairs office. We found out that a spouse of the employed person does not receive automatically a residential visa; it is granted at the office’s discretion. We were told to provide proof of private health insurance (to cover my husband), documentation that he would not work and that I was making enough to support the both of us. Also, the spouse’s visa extension is only for six months, not a year like we thought. Once you’ve been employed for a year, your company then applies for your permit for the next year. And then, and only then, can the spouse apply for a “Spousal Residential Visa”. This is valid for a year, but again, at the office’s discretion. It entails a whole different set of paperwork.

I have to say that my husband spent a lot of time at that office. He paid another €28 (his 90-day extension had expired while we waited for them to approve the six-month extension) because every time you ‘apply’ for an extension there is a fee. He was given a document which showed that he was good for another 30 days while we again waited for a final decision.

He went back three times and was turned away. The week before his temporary extension was to expire, he was there every day. We found out three days before the temporary extension was to expire that he was finally granted the six-month extension, but he was told that he had to come down to the office for another document every time he planned to travel outside of Malta.

He was so relieved that the extension was granted that the implication of what they had told him didn’t fully register. Since his passport already contained a resident sticker with an expiration date, if we traveled, he ran the risk of not being let back into Malta if he didn’t obtain a special document prior to leaving.

One more visit to the office was needed and they finally relented and updated his passport. So now, he is good until 30-June, 2011 which is fine by us. We are planning an extended holiday in the States this summer, so he will return a month before me. When we come home (we considered Malta our home now!), the first week of September, he will be eligible for the spousal visa, and the process will start all over again. With luck and a lot of patience on our side!

(See also: Wendie’s Expat Insights one year on. And you can read more about her experiences living in Malta on her blog here)

Useful Links
Visa Requirements for Foreign Nationals & Application Forms
Central Visa Office, Malta
Directorate, Citizenship & Expatriate Affairs
For more information visit the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website or contact an official Malta diplomatic representative near you.

It is advisable that you check about visa and entry requirements before making your travel arrangements to Malta if not an EU national (use links above). A Malta tourist visa is not required for citizens of United States for a stay up to 90 days.

Schengen Visa Zone
What is a Schengen visa?
A Schengen visa allows a person to temporarily enter the Schengen zone. The Schengen zone refers to the area that encompasses the European states that are members of the Schengen Agreement. The Schengen Agreement is a set of international treaties that abolish physical borders among member states, and effectively synchronizes travel amongst member states under one visa program. If you apply for a visa to travel to one country in the Schengen zone, as long as you have proof of pre-existing travel arrangements, you can enter any other Schengen zone country with the same visa.
See also the Schengen Visa Office website.

Photo: courtesy C.Y. Chow

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2 Comments about “Getting a Visa: Expat Insights”

  1. […] and the blog is background material for her book. It’s been far from a dream (take the whole visa issue for a start!), and certainly all about one day at a time. Well written, a nice change from […]

  2. […] visas. The situation is different for so-called Third Country nationals (for more on this, see our Visa article which documents a US couple’s experiences. It also has useful […]

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