A human face in the visa office
We shall be going to India again this summer, for a working holiday. I mean we take our laptops, a suitcase of books that we cant get online or on kindle, and we write for a week in the hotel, interspersed with curry and a few trips out to see the sights. It is blissfully undisturbed (especially if you resist the email), and there are no domestic chores to be done. What could be nicer?
The trouble is that you need a visa, and I have repeated bad luck with the Indian visa system. Part of the trouble, I have to admit, is me. Last time I was doing this, I managed to print the correct size passport photos out on the wrong side of the photographic paper, so when they arrived at the visa office the picture had peeled off -- and the whole thing was sent back to be re-done.
But even when we get it right, the stress of the whole process is almost guaranteed to lead to domestic disharmony .
That is partly because we have never never managed to make the online payment system work -- so we have to use the Postal Order route for paying the fee (£104 each this time, which I bet is less than it costs to get a visa the other way round, so I wont complain). I dont know when any blog readers last bought a Postal Order, or even knew that they still existed. But they are pricey (over £100, it's £12.50), and you have to pay in cash. So that's one stress.
The other is that you have to apply by post, having printed off a form that you fill in online. When you print it out, certain things that you filled in online just disappear (like the name of the hotel you are staying in). So you look at what you have printed out, say to yourself "Damn, I am sure I put the hotel's name in" and start all over again, only to discover that the same thing happens, even when KNOW you have. (Some privacy device?)
Anyway all seemed to go swimmingly this time. I got text messages and emails telling me that my application had been received by the outsourcing visa processers, passed to the High Commission and that it was ready for collection, or to be couriered (as I had requested). This is where the problem started. Today I got an email saying that there was a mismatch in my address, please could I confirm my postal address (plus passport number as proof of ID).
I knew exactly what must have happened. The postcode for my house is very like that for college, and I am always putting my college postcode on my home address. Someone must have discovered this as they arranged the courier. So I instantly replied with the right postcode.
Instantly an automated message came saying that I would have a reply usually within five working days, and was I sure that I had given all the information needed. At this point, I started to do the worst case scenario hypothesis. . . my passport would arrive at some point in the future, no one would be in, the card dropped through the door would be lost, it would sit at the depot, then get sent back.. etc etc. I couldnt exactly share that with the visa processors, who anyway werent going to look at my message for 5 days. So instead I decided to send them the full application number.
The nice person the other end, however, who HAD looked at my emails, obviously caught a whiff of my anxiety. A real human being. And within 15 minutes another email had come telling me not to worry, and that the passport was being sent and would be delivered tomorrow.
So lets hope it does.
(If someone would like to tell us what it is like applying for a UK visa from India, I'd love to know. I fear the worst.)