Thursday, October 2, 2014

India seems so far away

It has been a long haul already and unfortunately, I'm writing this update from my childhood twin bed in my childhood bedroom with the same carpet, same wallpaper, same curtains, and even the same sheets on my bed. There's just a few extra boxes and an elliptical machine to remind me I no longer live here permanently....yet.

It was in August that I agreed to a job in India and said yes, I can leave in three weeks when the company in India hiring me asked if I was available right away.

Back then I had 7 months before my passport expired.

I did Skype interviews, sent resumes, videos and pictures and was emailed a nice contract and everything seemed on track...until I tried to get my visa.

I went to the Atlanta passport agency the middle of August to renew my passport just in case and was told that I couldn't do so quickly without an exact travel date like an airline ticket.

Since my passport was not going to expire right away and I didn't want to send it off in the mail for a month and a half to renew it without an exact travel date, I decided to just wait and renew my visa overseas.

After receiving all my documents to apply online I did so on Labor Day and emailed to confirm the next day that the consulate had indeed received my application. They emailed me back the following day affirming that they had received it. Online it listed a set of steps to follow and I had completed step one and was now waiting for an email to complete steps two and three. After 5 days (the website stipulates a 3-5 day processing period) I tried emailing. All my emails were returned undeliverable. The next day I tried calling. There were three numbers on the website. Only one actually rang and I would sit and wait for a half hour plus numerous times throughout the day and on different days and no one would ever answer. This went on for a couple of weeks and finally my agent went to the embassy in the town near his location and was told I should just keep pestering them. Wish I could right?!

So I tried calling again and magically, I got through. About time it was. I was asked if I had received emails and I was like, nope. I can't even email you or call you. I was told to schedule an appointment to complete my paperwork so I scheduled one for the very next morning.

After waking at an ungodly hour to drive to Chicago to get there for my mid morning appointment, waiting in line, being told I had the wrong application, redoing my application, being told I needed additional paperwork, getting that paperwork, and then attempting to submit everything for processing, I was informed that since my passport no longer had more than six months before expiring that I could not submit my visa application. I explained that to get my passport renewed I needed an airline ticket and to get that I needed my visa, but to get my visa, I needed a renewed passport. Oh the joy of red tape circles.

Since I was nearby, I walked to the Chicago passport agency and when the lady called me up and asked if I had my travel dates I started explaining my situation. She kindly interrupted my story and said I couldn't get my passport back today but they would mail it to me in a few days. Whoopee!

I came back to Chicago in a few days instead of having them mail it, picked it up and returned to the visa application office. After another round of more paperwork and yadda yadda I finally got it submitted. The head lady there said she'd never seen a submission like mine. Guess I'm the exception. I shouldn't have been so surprised.

Anyway, I happily left the office thinking that in a week (according to their website and the email I had specifically written to confirm this, the processing time is 3-5 days) I'd have my visa in hand and be getting a ticket to India post haste!

Wrong again...

Turns out the consulate can't decide what they want to do with my visa application so they requested a detailed schedule of my upcoming performances, venues, etc. I'm not going to go into details about how that's impossible to procure, but the Indian company trying to hire me kindly supplied me with more documents to try and appease the consulate here and get my visa processed.

Then I got a phone call yesterday.

It's always scary getting a phone call from a government agency.

They told me they'd received the documents I had emailed earlier that day and still couldn't decide what to do and now the whole department is taking a five business day holiday so they won't consider it again until next week sometime. In the meantime, they asked if I'd like my passport back. The unfiltered response would have been, yes, with my Indian visa inside please.  But the filtered response was, no thanks, I'm not planning on any international travel in the next couple of weeks. I'm really hoping to travel to India the next time I use my passport!

Sooooo, I'm still waiting still waiting still waiting stilllll waitinggggg.............................

Maybe someday I'll get my Indian visa. This has certainly not been easy and not been fun and not been ideal in any way. There is still a good chance I won't even get to India after spending hundreds of dollars, completely reorganizing my schedule for the last few months, and turning down work because of the posted processing times. I still want this gig and hope I get it, but if I do, I think it will be the last time I apply for an Indian visa.

If any of my readers have any tips or hints for Indian policies or visas or for traveling in and around India, especially Mumbai, please let me know.