The Vogons, of the (2nd) worst bureaucracy in the universe
Here’s what to do if you want to get a lift from a Vogon: forget it. They are one of the most unpleasant races in the galaxy. Not actually evil, but bad tempered, bureaucratic, officious and callous. They wouldn’t even lift a finger to save their own grandmothers from the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal without orders signed in triplicate, sent in, sent back, queried, lost, found, subjected to public enquiry, lost again, and finally buried in soft peat for three months and recycled as firelighters (Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy)
So, I didn’t get my Visa and I can’t go to India tonight. I feel like poop, but here are some guidelines to getting a Visa with a foreign passport for the reference of any other hapless soul. I will avoid India for pleasure, but I would like to network there, so I guess it’s for future me too (wh will no doubt make the same mistakes). I’m a Sri Lankan citizen with a Canadian Passport, so it with that perspective. Even if I had a Sri Lankan passport I’d still need a visa and the lines are twice as long for that, but don’t worry, everybody gets treated terribly. In order to get to India you basically have to go up its ass, that is the Indian Embassy. If you intend to travel to India I’d recommend a) going somewhere else or b) getting your Visa in your home country. In Canada it takes 10 days, but it’s all through the mail. The process at the Colombo embassy will take 8 days, 7 hours of waiting in line and Rs 4,500. I’d recommend swimming across the Palk Straight instead. It’s faster and less physically and mentally demanding.
note: this is boring unless you need the information
1. Submit Application
This does not have to be a two day process, but unless you can get all the photocopying / headshots done in the 8am-9h30 traffic it’ll stretch.
Day 1: This involves a trip to the Embassy to get the application, you can get it at the door. You also need a photocopy of your birth certificate/national ID and two passport sized color photos. You can get the latter at any cyber kade, there are a few in the alley between Majestic and Unity in Bambla. I don’t know where you find paste, but if you can paste (glue?) the photos to your application it’ll save you at least 15 minutes on day 2. (Time: 1 hour)
Day 2: Bring all the paperwork, your passport and National ID/Birth Certificate to the Embassy at 9h30 in the morning. They stop admitting people at 12h. Give up your cell phone at the gate and disappear from the map. Get ready to stand in 4 seperate lines – one to enter the gates, one to enter the building, one to enter the room, and one to get to the counter. Bring an iPod or something, though they may take it away. In the third line, the one to enter the room, they will staple your papers and give you a token.Take the time to ask the lady which counter you are in line for, it’ll save a lot of confusion. The counters are completely unrelated. Watch only your counter, and go up there when the number is higher than yours. Sometimes they don’t even call it, or they’ll call 20 numbers in a rapid row. As long as the number is higher they’ll serve you. You have to cut ahead, and do not let anyone cut in front of you. Submit your document. Get the receipt. Go to the next counter, which is another line, though more like a pile. Pay Rs 4,500 in cash (no credit), get a receipt and your passport (why?) back. You will further instruction to come back at 4h30 in five business days, but this is actually wrong. Leave. Take Panadol. (Time: 3 hours).
2. Collect Application
if you have to travel sooner than 7 real days, as I did, you can call in favors here. What may work,
1. favor from Indian High Commissioner
2. letter from Chairman of your company, if it’s very prominent
I think I may have gotten the Visa expedited, as the able K told me to pick it up from a Mr. Namboodri. However, when I went to the embassy and asked for him, they refused to let me enter. I had to stand in line with the 300 people collecting Visas. Then I finally got downstairs to see him and he wasn’t there. Spoke to a lady and she told me to go upstairs, back in the main line. This was stupid, but I did it. Then the office downstairs closed and I was fucked. This was my fault, but I didn’t really know what I was doing.
Day 8: I say day 8 cause if you submit any time other than Monday you’ll hit a weekend. I’m going to highlight this information because it isn’t posted anywhere on the Embassy website or in the building, I didn’t do it cause I didn’t know and same for a few other people I met.
bring your passport in the morning: Rather than taking your passport with the application, they make you come in a second time. This requirement is not posted anywhere, so I’m guessing as to the particulars. In the morning, you go and submit your passport. (Est Time: 1 hour).
In the afternoon, you need to show up at 4h30 to stand in an even bigger set of three lines to collect your Visa. Once you get upstairs, note that foreign passport holders do not have to stand in the huuuge line. There is a seperate (somewhat wasteful) counter for foreign passports, with perhaps 5 people in line. The sign says it is counter 6 or something, but it actually isn’t, just figure it out. At this point you should have your Visa, unless they’ve lost your passport or something. All the papers are carried around by hand and placed on rolling chairs and desks and stuff. One American told me he saw an employee knock over a dozen applications with her sari and keep walking without picking them up. They’d lost his passport and he was waiting for it. You should theoretically get your Visa at this point. I never got this far. (Est Time: 2 hours).
So, in total, getting a Visa to India (on a foreign passport) will take you about 7 hours over 8 days, and cost you Rs 4,500. I have been freelancing this week and I lost like 28,000 in billable hours over this not to mention the trauma.
The 8 day requirement means you will need to stay in Colombo for that amount of time, and the 7 hours are awkwardly spaced so that they mess up 2 working days. I also spent at least 3 hours on transport time and that amount of Petrol. What this accomplishes for anyone I do not know.
On a Canadian Passport I can travel to America, UK, most of Europe, and Sri Lanka without a Visa. In the Middle East also, they will often stamp your passport at the airport for a day at least. I somehow think that it’s wrong to spend 8 days and 7 hours getting a Visa for a 3 day visit. It actually makes me not want to visit India for pleasure cause it’s just so painful. Maybe that’s me. I’m missing my flight and it makes me sad cause I wanted to network. Boo.