Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Cultural Representative Program Pre-Departure Checklist

We think the worry is over after successfully getting through interviews and accepting an offer. Oh no no no, there is a big checklist of things "to do" before actually starting a Disney International Program and it can be a little overwhelming especially if you have never done anything like this before. I thought I would put together a little checklist of things that need to be done in the things preceding a program which will also serve as my own little checklist, to see where I'm upto in the process.

Accept Offer & Upload Documents onto DOC
Upon the offer of a position on the CRP you will be directed to accept via the candidate portal (link will be sent). This will contain your offer letter which will have your program start and end date upon it, as well as your role. You are also required to upload several documents onto Disney's DOC website, which includes a scan of your passport, any previous visas and some personal details. This must all be done within 30 days of receiving an offer.

Program Assessment Fee ($154.50)
Additionally, within 30 days of receiving an offer you must pay the program assessment fees. This pays for amenities within the Disney housing complexes as well as any housing events that are regularly thrown.

DBS Check & Fee (£80)
Disney requires that Yummy Jobs perform a Criminal Background Check on their behalf before the commencement of any program, the fee of which is payable via the Yummy Jobs website immediately after you receive an offer. The paperwork will be sent in the post to your home address along with detailed instructions on how to fill it out. This needs to be sent back to Yummy Jobs asap as the check can take upto 12 weeks. Upon receiving your DBS certificate back in the post, it has to be scanned and emailed to Yummy Jobs.

There is nothing more satisfying than booking a one-way flight to Orlando. There are several options and airlines you can choose from including price comparison websites, STA travel (where you initially only have to put down a deposit) and airlines own websites. I've personally found Thomas Cook the cheapest but I'm probably going to end up going with Virgin Atlantic, as I have air miles that I can use to get a Premium Economy flight for £300 or am Economy Flight for £160. Decisions decisions.

Medical Insurance
It is required that all International Programs participants have medical insurance when entering the USA. For those on the CRP, there are 2 options. One is to purchase a plan covering the whole 12 months of the program from a UK provider. Yummyjobs do recommend you contact Yummy Travel to ask for a quote, as being a YJ participant we get 20% off. When I inquired the standard cover was £349 for the whole year. The other option is to pay for 4 months of insurance, then swap over to Disney's own medical insurance which will be taken out of your paycheck every month. The quote I got for 4 months was £195 for standard cover. I will probably try and pay for a years cover before I go out there so I don't have to worry about it, but will definitely be getting some advice on it as the whole insurance thing is a little confusing. Do be aware that operating participants, such as those on the HRC program, do not have access to Disney's medical insurance so will have to purchase cover for their program beforehand.

Visa Application Process ($190 + $30 passport return + travel)
The visa process is probably the scariest part of the pre arrival tasks to be honest. You know when you walk past a police officer on the street and think "look innocent, look innocent!" and try and look all nonchalant even though you've done nothing wrong. Yeah...that.
Visa instructions arrive 2 monthsish before arrival via the DOC dashboard with a document called I-797, which will need to be printed. This now means you can now log onto the embassy website and fill out an online form to apply for a Q-1 visa, which includes some eligibility questions and the DS-160 form. After this an embassy appointment can be booked and paid for, as well as choosing a delivery option for your passport to be returned. You are required to travel to the embassy in either London or Belfast. I've been to the London embassy twice before and its rather simple to find, getting off the tube at Marble Arch and walking a few streets over. Do be aware that no electronic devices are allowed inside the embassy, although I have a feeling they have changed these rules recently to allow mobile phones inside. Apparently people generally don't wait too long when applying for a Q-1 visa, but I've had two different experiences with wait times so cannot say how long it will take. When getting my J-1 visa it took hours, while for my CD-1 visa I was in and out. First you are called upto a window to hand in your forms and take fingerprints. After this there is another wait before being called upto the second window where the visa interview is held. They mostly ask questions such as "where will you be working in the US" and "where are you currently employed". It may sound scary but its nothing to worry about. Just answer honestly and you will be fine. Then approve your visa there and then and inform you that your passport will be returned in 5 working days.

This is the most exciting step! A week or two before arrival you will get an email from Disney asking you to log onto DORMS, the housing management system. This will let you pick your housing preference and link with 1-8 more people (the number depends on arrival date) to be roommates. I remember when DORMS first launched the year I was doing my summer program and we got so excited that we could actually pick roommates and note our preference. Of course this is not guaranteed and there is also an option to "go in blind" if you don't mind.

It's currently 138 days to go for me and I have just sent off my DBS paperwork and am getting ready to book my flights next payday! It still doesn't feel real and I don't think it truly will until I'm sitting on that plane getting ready to jet off to the most magical place on earth for a whole year.