It’s raining in Jakarta, and we are stuck out side of India’s embassy, sheltered from the downpour under a piece of leaky plastic.
Our visa agent isn’t here, and the embassy won’t let us through without him. Perhaps that’s a good thing, because once we go through the gate, we are stripped of all our possessions except our cash and ID, so we wouldn’t be able to call anyone to find out who, exactly, our agent is. The road in front of us starts to flood– it’s the second day of all-day rain, and who knows when the deluge will stop.
After a confusing exchange and another ten minutes of sharing the scrap of an overhang with seven other people, we are let in through the gate with the man who is, apparently, our visa agent.
Inside, we wait. My co-worker and I had both filled out our own visa applications, so our agent pretty much was simply the guy who speaks the local language and waits in line for us. When my co-worker and I finally get called up, the woman behind the desk tells us that we have insufficient evidence that we will be going to a conference in Mumbai.
“No, it says right here,” my co-worker explains, clearly pointing to the line of our invitation letter that reads “Mumbai, India.” “It’s an international company, but the conference is in Mumbai.” I show my application as well, where the host school is listed. We also have our tickets, which show that we are both landing and departing from Mumbai, and our hotel reservations, indicating that we are, indeed, planing on staying in Mumbai.
“No,” She restates, “There is insufficient evidence.”
“Look,” we insist. “It’s right there!” My co-works says it again, still jabbing at the papers.
She finally goes back to talk with her supervisor, but we aren’t told the verdict. Instead, we are fingerprinted and sent back home.
This confusing (and mildly frustrating) occurrence is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to visa issues. In less than a month, my co-worker and I will be leading a trip with 27 students in London, England. About 18 of those students need to apply for visas to the UK in advance, and not simply get a VOA upon arrival. (The rest of the students are either from Korea, Denmark, the US, or Malaysia, so they they don’t have to apply in advance.) The majority of those students have been denied their visas, some even twice. My co-worker and I have started to fill out their applications for them, instead of letting the travel agency charge yet again for failed visas.
Regardless, we are hoping that everything goes well with the first batch of five students we managed– their “interview” is on Monday, and either my co-worker or I will be going to the visa office with them in order to advocate for their documents to be properly sent.
At the end of the day, though, the decision lies with the people in at the off ice in the processing location: Manila. (What a crazy, criss-crossed world we live in!)
As for my visa to India, I received my passport back on Friday, my visa happily pasted on page 29.