I recently wrote about my experiences when applying for a Nigerian visa, but I should also mention that applying for an Indian visa is no easier! Every year it gets more and more difficult to get an Indian visa – and this includes multiple-entry visas for people of Indian origin.
After the arrest of David Headley (the American/Pakistani man arrested for conspiring to bomb targets in Bombay) in 2009, getting visas for India has become tiresome. As I found out last year when I needed a visa.
I was heading to Bali for my brother’s wedding, and didn’t want to go via India at all. If I’d had my way, I’d have gone straight to Bali and spent an extra four days by the beach. However, all my clothes were in Bombay and I needed to try them on and have any last-minute alterations made. I booked a return flight to Bombay and used a separate ticket for my flight from Bombay to Bali. I filled in the application form, took my passports (old and new) and headed to the visa application centre in Victoria.
I would have been happy with a tourist visa, but changes had been made so that once you leave India on a tourist visa you can’t return for 2 months. As I had to return in 2 weeks to get my flight back to London, I thought I’d apply for a multiple-entry 5-year visa. I had one in my previous passport so I didn’t think it would be a problem getting another one. How wrong could I have been?
Everything was fine – I got there at the allocated time, I picked a ticket from the machine and was seen by a man at the counter about 5 minutes later. He was about to approve my 5-year visa when the supervisor strolled past and decided to have a look at my papers. I took one look at her and knew then that it was all over. I had no proof of Indian origin, even though there was a 5-year visa in my old passport. She said I couldn’t have one. I told her I needed a multiple-entry visa because of my flight bookings. She said ‘We do advise you not to book anything before applying for your visa’. Such a typical unsatisfactory response. I asked her if there was anything she could do? She said ‘I can try, but I can’t promise.’ So, that’s a ‘no’ then? ‘If you give me your itinerary…’ she started, at which point I asked how I could give her my itinerary if I wasn’t supposed to have booked anything. Did I have an old Indian passport? No, I’ve never been ‘Indian’. Do I have my parents’ old Indian passports? No, does anyone??
Fine, I didn’t have all the documents I needed, but what annoyed me *most* of all was that while we were talking, she was flicking through my old and new passports – and suddenly she had STAPLED THEM TOGTHER. FFS. Did I ask her to do that?? No. Did she even align them so that the edges were even? NO. I asked her to unstaple them and she said that she didn’t think it was a good idea because officials might ask questions if they saw holes in my passport! I wanted to reach over the counter and punch her in the face. I was about to lose it so I gathered my stapled passports and other papers and I left.
(Very. Very. Annoyed.)
I called my parents. My dad has no documents indicating he’s of Indian origin. I don’t think he even knows where his birth certificate is. My mum was in Bombay at the time and miraculously managed to find an old Indian passport of hers! She sent it through someone the next day and I collected it.
Now I needed my birth certificate to prove that she really was my mum. I looked through the safe and found my birth certificate. Well, just half of it really. It was the smaller sheet that basically tells you when and where you were born and I already knew that. It didn’t have my parents’ names on it or anything. I could see my brother’s and my sister’s, but not mine. Dammit! I emailed Hammersmith and Fulham Council and asked if they could send me a copy of my birth certificate – I received it about a week later.
Finally I had everything I thought I needed. I went back to Victoria, hoping to see the same supervisor. Luckily for her, she wasn’t there. I did see her when I went to collect my passport a couple of days later though. She tried to smile at me, but oh, if looks could kill…
Now my parents think I should apply for an OCI and just get it over and done with. My mum tried to do hers this morning – she left home at 8am, got to the High Commission before 9 and said that there were already 500+ people in the queue before her (by the way, read 500+ as 125). I’m really not sure I can be bothered with all this…