December 05, 2006

Visa adventures



Being diligent I had filled out all the visa paperwork many days ago. Passport sized pictures and all. Indian visas are pretty straightford, you apply for one of three basic visas: transit, tourist, or business. A transit visa is for people who are on their way to somewhere else (the visas that Rick was brokering in "Casablanca" were transit visas), a tourist visa is for tourists, and a business visa is for anyone who wants to conduct business during their visit (me!)

Debbie was getting a six month tourist visa. No problem, just provide your passport, a couple of local USA references, and $60 - poof. Unless you're a known undesirable you're in. I wanted a six month business visa. For that you need the same as a tourist visa, plus two references in India and a letter from your company explaining why India should give you a visa. I had at first thought I would just go on a tourist visa, but the nice Google immigration lawyer (Google has immigration lawyers!) told me that I should get a business visa, and that I would need a signed letter on Google letterhead to do it. Fortunately they were willing to do it right away.

Unfortunately, the Indian consulate accepts visa applications from 9am to noon everyday, and it was now 10am - and I was in San Francisco, the letter was in Mountain View, and the consulate was in San Francisco. My bike needs gas and I don't have $120 in cash. Ok, I can do this. I hop on the bike, toss my bag in the back ... and notice the top case is much floppier than it should be. I look underneath and notice the bracket is broken. Rats. Take off the top case, run back in the house and get the big Timbuk2 bag. Hop on the bike, gas up at the corner station and go. Get to Mountain View by 11am. Get cash, get the letter, get back on the road by 11:30. Make it to the Indian consulate on Arguello near Geary at 12:05. Rats. Fortunately the nice guard lady lets me in even though the sign on the door says "closed."

Get a number, wait till it's called, stand in line, turn in all my paperwork. Much faster and more efficient than the DMV. "This is a piece of cake!" She says take this and pay. Look over - the line for the cashier is HUGE. Get at the end of it. It also moves fairly quickly, chat up the people in line and discover that while you can pick up your visa from 4:00-4:30, people start queuing up at 3:15. Resolve to be back at 3:30. Get to the front, pay my $120 in cash, and get a reciept. Go home.

Around 2:45 go to the 22 bus stop to go to the consulate. Transfer to the 38 Geary, make it there by 3:30. Yay! Realize the reciept is still in the manila envelope in the Timbuk2 bag, not in the little bag I have with me. Rats. Chat up the nice guy next to me in line who has flown up from LA. Mention his Irish accent, and admit I'm on my way to Dublin next week. Have a nice conversation where I realize that having an Indian consulate in the city you live in is not a given, and that some people have travelled hundreds of miles to stand in this line. I have nothing to complain about.

Get to the front of the line. Present my driver's license. "Where's your reciept?" "I'm sorry, I forgot it." "You forgot it?" "Yes, I'm sorry." "Why do you think we announce every five minutes that you need your reciept?!" "I'm sorry." "'I'm sorry' isn't good enough for me!" Nevertheless she goes off and returns with my passport. "Thank you! Um, I also need Debbie Gross's passport." "*She* is not on your driver's license." "I know, she's my wife." I lied. "You see! This is why you need your receipt!" "I'm sorry." She glares at me but goes off and gets Debbie's passport too. She practically throws it at me in disgust. Never the less she DID go get it, and she DID give it to me. I have no complaints whatsoever. "Thank you" I say meekly. "Next!" she barks.

WE HAVE VISAS! We're good to go.
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