Notes by Nectar

Your destiny lies in your own hands

Applying for my Nigerian visa: part 3

Last week I wrote about my latest Nigerian visa application – and how the process was much smoother this time round.

If only collecting my passport and visa had been as simple…

When I submitted my passport and application last week, I was given a receipt with the date 29th August and a collection time of 3.30-4.30 printed on it. ’29th is a bank holiday,’ I told the man. ‘You are open on the bank holiday?’ 

‘Eh… Yes,’ he replied.

Hmm. I wasn’t entirely convinced but left it at that.

On Friday I called the visa enquiry number at the High Commission just to make sure they were going to be open. 

‘Eh… We are doing collections from 12 to 1,’ the man told me.

‘But my receipt says 3.30-4.30.’

‘Eh… but it’s a holiday so come at 12.’

So if I hadn’t called to check and shown up at 3.30 as planned, they’d have been closed! FFS.

So, I left home on Monday morning, got there at about 11.50, and went into the visa hall and waited. 

And waited.

And waited.

Nothing happened. There were about 15 people waiting with me.

At 1pm I went to the counter and asked the man what was happening – when would the collections be ready?

‘Eh… They are not ready.’

‘Yes, but *when* will they be ready?’

‘Eh… We think by 2 o’clock. You can go and come back.’

FFS. Go where, exactly? 

I went out to get a sandwich and was back in the visa hall by 1.30. At about 2.15pm they started calling out receipt numbers – mine was first. There were LOADS of passports awaiting collection – but I don’t think their owners knew that they had to collect them early as it was a holiday. I took my passport and got the hell out of there. Thank goodness I’d taken a book with me… I’d have been bored out of my brains otherwise.

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Applying for my Nigerian visa: part 2

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:

  • Valid passport
  • 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!

 

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Applying for my Nigerian visa

Now that I’m all booked for Lagos, I have to sort out a Nigerian visa. I want to weep.

When I was growing up and going back to Nigeria regularly I didn’t have to think about visas and other practicalities – every time I’d go back my dad would sort things out for us. As I don’t go back as frequently (the last time was 3 years ago) and my parents don’t live there now, I have to sort these things out myself.

I went back to Lagos in 2006 after a 9-year break. That time, a friend of mine hooked me up with someone at the High Commission and I got my visa in about half an hour. I didn’t even have to go to the main visa application area; he let me wait in the main reception area of the High Commission.

I went back a year later and the same friend sorted me out – I was ever so grateful.

In 2008, I thought it would be really cheeky of me to ask again so I decided to apply on my own…

I used to think that applying for a Nigerian visa was a pain in the ass (until I applied for an Indian visa last summer). You only (!) need the following documents:

  • Passport – yes, you really do need your passport
  • Two passport photos
  • Completed application form
  • A letter from your health insurance company stating coverage – I think this is new because I didn’t have to provide this 3 years ago
  • Proof of an airline booking
  • Current bank statement
  • A letter of invitation from your friends/family

When I applied for my visa in 2008, I got to the High Commission before 10am, took a ticket from the machine and sat down. I looked around – the counters were clearly labelled: visa applications, passport applications, cashier. So far so good.

As soon as the counters opened at 10am, chaos broke out. People were crowding around each counter, regardless of whether it was a visa or passport application – and nobody gave a shit what number they had in their hands. Crap, I thought. This is going to be a nightmare.

And then a young(ish) Nigerian man climbed onto his chair and started shouting: ‘What are you people doing? You’re behaving like animals! No wonder people treat Nigerians like dirt!’ I was shocked. He was shouting at his fellow countrymen – and I think they were shocked too because they all calmed down and looked around sheepishly. They found seats and waited for their numbers to be called out. Did that happen every morning? What would have happened if that man hadn’t been there?

I submitted my application and went to pick up my passport a day later – no problems. 

But now I have to go back in the next few days – and I just don’t know what to expect!

2011

(Just one of the many sights I’m looking forward to seeing…)

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