Visas and Residency in Lithuania: Part 1
Updated: Jan 26, 2022
Hey, Steve here!
So as it turns out, moving to Lithuania and staying in Lithuania are separate challenges. I'll tell you what we did (including the mistakes), and more importantly - what you should do if you decide to come and stay!
This will be a four part series:
The Scientist: National Visa
The Scientist: Residence Permit
Eva: Residence Permit
Eva: National Visa
But before I begin, a few thank yous:
The team at GoVilnius.lt (They've got great guides for assisting newcomers!)
The administrative staff at my university (they made this possible <3)
Employees at Lithuania's Migration Department
The Lithuanian Consulate in Chicago, Illinois
1. The Scientist: National Visa
Okay, so we were considering moving to Lithuania (LT) during a world-wide pandemic, but still, I needed to visit. Due diligence required that at least one of us check out the country, city and workplace - Youtube videos can only tell you so much!
Because LT (and much of the world) wasn't admitting tourists at the time, I needed to get a "National (D) Visa" before visiting, despite being here for just four days. Normally, you can visit as a traveler for up to 90 days (as a US citizen). This visa is typically for people planning to move here for work, school or something similar. It's renewable yearly and can be done in your home country.
What I did: I contacted the LT Consulate, and they directed me to a company in Houston that assists people with visa applications - VFS Global. Such companies collect your application materials and biometrics, and then send them off to whoever actually makes the decisions (Consulate? Migration department?). I had to complete the application forms, visit one of their centers, pay the money, and then... wait.
The application: I submitted my app through LT's portal at visa.vrm.lt/epm. It required a bunch of info:
Personal information - names, addresses, workplaces, passport data
Travel details - number of entries; where, when and how I'd arrive
Proof of funds for my travel (and return, if things went sideways)
Who invited me - contact information
They email you the completed application, so you can print it and take it for your visit.
The other super-critical thing I needed was a "Mediation Letter". The university had to submit this to the LT Migration Department on my behalf, and it needed to be done before my visit. This is not automatic; I had to contact the university staff to get it done. Basically, it validated my visit in the eyes of the government.
The visit: I had to book my appointment ahead of time through VFS Global's website. They don't take walk-ups. Before arriving, I had to have all the necessary materials:
Appointment confirmation letter
My passport. They take it from you because the Visa needs to physically be added to it. You won't get it back until the whole process is finished.
A picture (optional). The picture requirements are different than for US passport photos, and are quite strict. I messed it up, so I paid extra while there to have an acceptable one taken.
Travel Insurance documents. It has to cover you for the time that you're visiting, which is typically the same length of time as the visa is good for. My case was exceptional, so I got a plan that just covered a couple weeks. I went with a plan from IMG.
A signed, hand-written (or printed) letter with the ID number of my Mediation Letter from the university.
A copy of my bank statements. This showed that I could support myself while there and could afford to get back home.
A credit card to pay the application fees ($143 at the time)
I brought extra copies of everything I could, just in case. Once at my visit, I reviewed and submitted all the materials to a staff member, and paid my fees. Then, I had to go through the biometrics process - mainly just fingerprinting. The issue was that the fingerprint scanner software sucks, so this alone took an hour - don't ask me how.
The wait: So officially, this should take 15 days from the date of submission. Since the materials have to be physically mailed, it could take even longer. But in my case, it only took 10 days. I was quite happy, as now I could finally book flights to Lithuania and find out if it was the right place for our next step! (Spoiler alert: it was!)
Final comments: You can also get your National Visa while visiting Lithuania instead of doing it remotely. That's how we did it for Eva, though I can't really say which way is better (yet). Your Visa kind of makes you second-class, since you won't get an "asmens kodas" - a personal code sort of like your Social Security Number. They use it for nearly all official business in Lithuania. So, there's certain things you just can't do (or else costs a lot more), like open accounts at certain banks or rent cars from some companies (Spark). But you can work, play and explore this awesome country!
Stay tuned for Part 2, where we'll discuss residence permits. Thanks for reading!