Thursday, May 10, 2007

The Indian Visa Saga

I never knew it would be such an adventure to get an Indian visa! First off, let me say that Tim and I are really lazy! We don't want to get out of bed in the morning. So we missed getting our Indian Visa in London because they close at 1:00 and we did not make it to the embassy in time. We decided to try again first thing in Istanbul, a good idea because we plan on flying from here to India. So here is how the Visa saga goes:
Day one: we slept in and did not even try to go.
Day two: we slept in and raced there (about a two mile walk), arriving at 11:32. We rang the buzzer and were let in, only to be told that they close at 11:30 (yes, we missed by two minutes) and ushered back out.
Day three: we are doing a little better and arrived at 11:01. I was afraid that they might close at 11:00 that day! We were let in and filled out the forms but then we were told we had to go to the American embassy to get a visa request letter and a note verbal. Huh? What on earth are these documents? The US embassy is quite far away so we took a tram to the last stop and then hailed a cab to take us the rest of the way. What a wild ride! It was like being on a amusement park ride and I laughed the whole way. Of course, the nicely made seat covers cover up not only the seat but the seat belt as well. On reaching the US fortress on a hill, we found out that the documents needed were a $30 per person notarized statement, plus a typed statement dated 1995 from the US embassy telling the Indian embassy that no more documentation would be provided and that they should show more courtesy to US citizens applying for a visa by not requiring this documentation from them. Sure to piss someone off!
Day four: Yep, it pissed someone off! We brought our documents to the counter and the lady asked if we got the paperwork she asked us to get. Yes we did. She began reading it and then her expression changed. She told us to have a seat while she disappeared with our paperwork into a back room. After a while she reappeared and said "could you please bring this same paperwork back tomorrow?" "Sure we can" Tim and I replied with big smiles and then I asked her "is something wrong with the paperwork?". "No, just bring it back tomorrow" was the reply, no explanation, no clue as to the problem.
Day Five: Back to the Indian embassy to find out that the papers the US embassy charged us $60 for are worthless. What they apparently want is a nice little note from the embassy requesting a visa for us. The paper the US embassy gave us pretty much says that they will not provide this documentation. So it appears we are in the middle of some sort of diplomatic little tiff. The solution offered us is that we go in for an interview on Monday, and then wait 15 days for the visa. At least it sounds like we can still get one! And fortunately, we really like Turkey. We will post the conclusion of this adventure when it unfolds.
Day Six: Monday the 14th we returned for our interview. The main questions were "What are your occupations?" and "Why didn't you get your visa before you left the United States?". We were told that it will take at least two weeks for the Indian government to process our visa applications. This is because they do not have a comprehensive security database like the US government has. If the US government would play nice with the other embassies and write for its citizens a simple polite letter requesting that the other country issue a visa, there would have been minimal wait. We aren't sure, but there seems to be some kind of American superiority complex in this refusal to comply with other embassy's requests. We'll find out after the 28th if we have been approved for the Indian visa. Meanwhile, they let us keep our passports, which was a very nice gesture, so we are traveling the interior of Turkey.
Day Seven: Monday June 4th. We arrived promptly at the Indian embassy at 5pm to pickup our visas. Unfortunately, since they were nice enough to let us take our passports with us, we would have to leave them overnight and pickup the visas the next day. This delay would cost us another $120 in rush fees to get our Kyrgz Republic visas before we left Istanbul. Aren't visas fun???

Tuesday June 5th. Tim's birthday. His present was two visas from the Indian Embassy!

For all the hassle getting this particular visa, we relize that we are very fortunate as Americans to be able to obtain visas for most countries with relative ease. We were able to get our China and Pakistan visas quickly in New Delhi. People we've met from Turkey and India have much more difficulty obtaining visas for our country. Sometimes they cannnot get a visa at all. On that note, we won't complain any more about the minor visa annoyances we've had. We have learned that it is best to get visas in the USA before traveling, if possible.

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