A Day of Frustrating Visa Troubles

For our big summer trip, the only visa we need to get in advance is the one for India. And as luck would have it, the High Commission in London has just in the past week changed their system to an outsourced company to help alleviate the long lines and disorder that would typically accompany a visa-purveying trip.

Evan and I got our papers all ready over the weekend. We had our photos, our passports, our references and our supporting documents. We were short a paper clip, so I stopped by the Hilton on my way to the bus stop and asked at the front desk — they were happy to hand one over (thank you very much!). I got to the visa office just minutes after it opened at 8:30 and stood in a short line outside in the morning drizzle. When I got inside, I was instructed to take a number, then go wait. It was no different than being at the DMV.

I had a book with me — thank goodness, since I waited an hour and a half — and when I got up to the counter, I was told that I could get my tourist visa but Evan couldn’t. Now Evan certainly doesn’t have any reason to be denied a simple tourist visa, so what could be the problem? He doesn’t have a UK visa. Since our stay here is less than 6 months, he only has a work permit, which is good through July 4, 2008. I got a visa because it was the easiest way for me to go.

Now why should this matter? I’m not quite sure. We’re both here legally, we’re not returning to the UK after our trip and we’ll be leaving the country before Evan’s visa expires. But apparently his non-visa status strips him of his right to getting a visa to a foreign country he would otherwise be allowed to travel to.

It’s not like we have anywhere else to get the visa. The U.S. India visa site tells us we need to apply for a visa wherever we currently are — we shouldn’t be shipping passports overseas. The agent’s suggestion: Get our visas from Cairo. And while spending part of our short stay in Egypt in a visa queue sounds ever so appealing, we’re not guaranteed we’ll get it there, either. It will take at least 3-4 business days to process, which would be cutting it awfully close when we only have a week in the city.

Fittingly, when Evan emailed the Cairo High Commission, they told him it would probably be easier to apply in the UK, so we’re just being sent around in circles.

So now we’re debating whether to keep our itinerary and try to get visas from Cairo or to change our plans and head to Cyprus, Turkey, Israel or some other location instead. Maybe this is our sign that we shouldn’t be heading to Mumbai during monsoon season.

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