Monday, February 11, 2013

In-visa-ble man (and woman)

Jules and I are supposed to be en route for the PAGES Open Science Meeting in Goa, but due to the situation turning out not necessarily to our advantage, we aren't. So I suppose I might as well write this blog post instead.

We knew from ages back that we needed visas for India, even for a conference visit, but we didn't expect it would be a particularly onerous or lengthy procedure. Everywhere else we've ever gone, conference trips are considered as innocuous as tourism, which means they have been covered under the tourist visa waiver schemes that developed countries commonly have. India, however, doesn't seem to have this sort of arrangement. So back in November, the organisers sent us some official documents that they said we needed for visa applications. But we had trips to San Francisco and then Hawaii to come, and the web site for visa applications suggested a time scale of about 8 days.

So, we came back from Hawaii, with the usual backlog of stuff to catch up on. I had a meeting in Tokyo on that Friday morning, and was going to go in to the visa application centre on the afternoon...but I checked on Thursday night and the web site said: "Manual Visa Application System is ceased from January 2013. Hereby, all the Applicants should apply for Indian Visa using Online Visa Application System only." Clicking through took me to a big form full of lots of tedious questions. So I left it for the weekend.

After struggling and failing to find out over the weekend how to actually apply on-line, we decided that we had better just go in on the Monday and wave the forms at them. It turned out that this is the correct course of action - the Indian interpretation of "Online Visa Application System" is actually "fill in a form on a web page, then print it out and take it to Tokyo".

Then came the real bombshell: "Sorry Sir, the visa process now takes 2 or 3 weeks, we cannot guarantee it will be ready in time for your trip. But we'll take the fat application fee anyway". They didn't actually say the second sentence.

So, the Thursday before our Sunday night flight rolls up, and I phoned up to see if there was any chance of the visa being ready by the next - last - day. "Sorry Sir, we are just an outsourcing company, we have conveyed the urgent request to the Embassy, but do not know anything about your visa. You must check the website, it will tell you when your visa is ready". Friday came and went, and there was still no news, so at the end of the day, we cancelled everything. After getting home on Friday night, I checked the website again...and it said our visas were now ready and awaiting collection. But with the office shut until Tuesday, there was no way to get our passports back.

I was slightly relieved to see that Gavin tweeted yesterday that he had also failed to get his visa - not that I wish anyone the same frustrating waste of time and money on anyone, but it's a bit less embarrassing than if we'd been the only ones. But we only had a grand total of 14 working days between jules returning from Hawaii, and our departure to India, so although we might possibly have got our visas if we'd really be on the ball from the moment she arrived home with 10h of jetlag, even then it could not have been guaranteed. And there is no way we could have known that the visa application might take 3 weeks, as even now the only time scale mentioned on the web site is still the old estimate of 8 days (albeit with a footnote to say it is wrong). "All the applicants are requested to make their schedule to visit India accordingly." "When hell freezes over" sounds like a good time right now.


Vinny Burgoo said...

Write for the Daily Mail much? If not, why not?

Hank Roberts said...

> hell freezes over

I hear the temperature in Hell is dropping, as they are challenged buying coal at market prices these days with China and India taking so much.

And natural gas just doesn't give the same ambience.

James Annan said...

Vinny, since the Times and Torygraph went paywalled I do sometimes glance at it for giggles. You think I could get a gig there?

Vinny Burgoo said...

You'd have to be well up on things like whether Justin Bieber causes cancer and what the Bulgarians will make of Nigella Lawson when they arrive next year.

Vinny Burgoo said...

I've just chanced upon this:

All the memes it thinks fit to print. Get practising.

(Could the MMR jab destroy Britain's swans? Will cancer make your mortgage impotent? Have the Poles made your house obese?)

EliRabett said...

Eli can tell you the same sad story about getting a visa for the UK complete with we are only a company that takes applications, no you can't speak to anyone, and here is the stamp in you visa which means you sit anytime you enter the UK.

Long and short of it is that the academic visas are not for bunnies who are collaborating with someone in a UK lab but not being paid by them. If you want to go sit in the British Library by yourself, that;s fine.