I mentioned in an earlier post that I was planning a trip to Lagos for Vinay’s first birthday and that once again I would need to brave the Nigerian High Commission in London.
The visa application process is a little different these days. All applications are processed and paid for online, and once you’ve submitted your application you’re told what date you need to submit your passport to the High Commission. Organised, isn’t it?
Well. Yes and no.
I filled in the application form online, paid for my visa (£90!) and was told I needed to submit my passport on 23 August. Simple.
I then decided to look at the list of things I needed to take with me:
Printed copy of the online visa application form and a copy of the payment confirmation page and a passport photo
Letter of invitation from Nigeria accepting full immigration responsibilities for me while in Nigeria
Photocopy of the inviter’s passport
Visa fee payment confirmation AND a £20 postal order for processing fees (so I spent £110 on the visa in total)
I had all those things except a printed copy of the online visa application form. I could just print it off after it had been submitted, right? WRONG. I logged in using the details they’d given me only to be told that I couldn’t change my application. I couldn’t even see my application form. Shit – I thought I was going to have to re-apply and pay the £90 again! There must be an easier way, I thought. I emailed the help contact on the website explaining the situation and waited for a reply. It took just 5 minutes for the advisor to get back to me. She said I needed to fill in the online application form again but instead of submitting it, just print it. Now why hadn’t I thought of that? And why don’t they tell people this on the site?
So I managed all that. No problems.
The Visa section of the High Commission officially opens at 10am. At least that’s what it says on their website. I know from past experience that if you get there earlier you can still collect a number and wait in the visa hall. I decided to do that – I got there at 9.15 (in the pouring rain) and was met with a queue outside the building. There were about 20 people in front of me and the queue was moving quickly. When I got to the front, I realised that embassy staff were checking that people were coming in with printed application forms and proof of payment before entering the main hall. You’d be amazed how many people didn’t bring their application forms, their payment confirmation, or even their passports (eh?) – and they were shocked that they were turned away. I didn’t have any problems and the man let me through.
Once I entered the main hall I had to join another queue where another man was also checking documents and he gave me a ticket – number 606. I’m not joking when I say that there were at least 100 people already in this room – men, women, children, babies, strollers. It was noisy and there was nowhere to sit. The person standing next to me had ticket number 025. F***. I was going to be there forever!
At 9.30 they started calling people forward to the counters. I think that’s because they couldn’t fit any more people in the room and the queue outside was growing! My concern about being there all day vanished when they called the first ticket of the day – ticket 600! Visa applications and passport applications have separate numbering systems – thank goodness! I didn’t have long to wait at all…
My application was processed without any problems. The English guy applying at the counter next to me didn’t have a photocopy of the inviter’s passport and was told to come back another day. So they’re serious about all that!
I was out of there by 10.15 and headed to work. I just have to collect my passport in a few days and I’m done.
No mobbed counters and nobody shouting at each other – the process was much more streamlined this time. Thank goodness!