I write this post from the Mumbai Airport Terminal 2 lounge, where I am finally comfortable after a long few days of feeling like kicking myself in the backside. You will perhaps read it after a few hours when I will be airborne.
You see, I was trying to be loyal to the Royal airline (i.e., the British Airways), and for this, I need to get a visa every now and then, even to transit through the UK to go to a Schengen country. God help me with why do I need a visa for transit to Schengen countries, when I don’t need one to travel to the USA, Australia and some other places via the UK.
The visa costs are prohibitive, and only 6 months (INR 8700/GBP 83), 2 years and 10 year visit visas are available (INR 77500/GBP 738). So depending upon my schedule, I apply for and get a 6 month visit visa that I can use for visits as well as transits via the UK. And all these years I’ve been doing it, I’ve never felt the need for the priority service, because, I’ve managed to obtain a visit visa during the regular timelines, which, for prior visitors has been between 5-8 days at the Mumbai outpost, where the Deputy High Commission takes care of the visa processing. The committed time for a decision however, is 15 working days, which comes to about 3 weeks. Priority visa processing costs another GBP 100 (INR 10500) and I did not value it so far at that high a price.
I thought, it would be done this time around in about 8 days as well! So, I punched in the long online form, took a printout and submitted my fingerprints 10 working days in advance, to make sure I had a couple of days as margin of error. Alas, it seems my luck was not that great this time around.
I was due to be on a business trip around Europe as of Sunday, and the way the trip was working out, it would have been very nice to have had London as the first and last leg, driving the overall cost of travel down.
However, it did not work out. And till Friday, and even on Saturday, my passport did not arrive back in the mail. And I had to sigh, and start cancelling hotel reservations. I sent a colleague on his way, who did the right thing with the priority processing, and sat back in despair wondering how to take things forward.
Monday morning, after much push and shove, I finally managed to get the Deputy High Commission to agree to withdraw my Visa application. They hadn’t processed it yet, and I needed my passport back if I had to salvage the rest of my trip.
I got a call at 12:30 PM, asking me to send them a form with my signatures, requesting the process of withdrawal of my Visa application. And then, make myself available at the Consulate within an hour to collect my passport, since the DHC would close down early due to festivities.
I can only tell you I dumped everything I needed to carry in my bag, and was on my way in 30 seconds. The festivities were a boon in disguise, ultimately, because, I ended up getting around at the exact appointed time to the DHC, and within 15 minutes had my passport back on me, along with the documents I submitted.
And then, I got back home to book myself all those flights which I could have perhaps booked earlier and been hassle free before. A lot of those flights are individual international segments around Europe, and I guess paying for them a few days ahead would have saved me about the same amount of money, if not more, than the wasted money on the Visa application.
Oh, and yes, I’d have arrived on a Sunday and be well rested as well, which I am guessing I am not now!!! Yeah, another kick in my backside for me!
Experience does not count in Visa applications, stated service times do. Either pay up to the money minting machine, or be ready to wait.
Time for me to get road ready, but I hope my experience teaches you something as well!