Friday, March 20, 2009

Yards and Yards of Red Tape

It's only been 2 days since I submitted by visa application, but what a 2 days it has been. All day yesterday I was literally too nervous to work, constantly thinking about the visa and that dreadful "what-if-I-don't-get-it" thought hung over me like a big shadow of Doom. Logically, I know that I meet all of the criteria outlined by the British High Commission and I know that I had supplied all of the correct documentation etc. Still, anything that involves an interaction with a bureaucratic authority is a painful and nerve wracking process fraught with nail chewing and hair pulling along the way - mainly because of their overall lack of clear instruction around processes and ambiguous wording on documentation. Here is my evidence of the same:

I went over to the visa agent's offices on Wednesday to drop off my application and supporting documents and have my biometric scans taken. I had read and re read the instructions on the website and had every document they asked for neatly in a folder. The lady at the counter asked me what was my intended date of travel. Early July I told her. She made a disapproving clicking sound. "You're applying too early. They only issue visas 3 months in advance of the travel dates." Now readers, I'd read that website backwards and forwards. There was no mention AT ALL of this "rule". What it DOES mention is that there is a specific per annum quota allocated for this type of visa and no exceptions are made once the numbers have been met. I asked her about this and said that I could wait another 3-4 weeks to apply, but what if I am too late to meet the quota?

She looked doubtful.

She then told me I'd have to write a letter stating that I'd like to postpone the visa start to end June, for travel in early July. That way I could meet the 3 month criteria and the visa officers would know not to issue the visa right away so that I don't "waste" 3 months of it. I pointed out that Q1 on the application asks for intended date of travel. "Do I have to write a letter even after I've answered that question right on the form itself?"

She looked doubtful.

"Write the letter" she repeated and added "Don't worry, we have a lot of people who apply too early and they all have to write this letter." So I asked her if she had a template that I could follow that would tell me who to address the letter to, and what the subject line should be etc etc.

She looked confused.

Turns out, even though they have encountered "a lot of people" in the past who've needed this letter, they didn't once think to have a standard document prepared, or a sample template that one could copy from. But what am I saying? That would require forward thinking - and this was a government agent.

I wrote the letter.

That settled, we moved on to proof of funds. I said that I had a letter from my bank stating my current balance in all accounts as well as a letter from my investment company stating the total value of my current portfolio. "Where is your bank statement?" she asked. I explained that because I do online banking, I don't get a monthly statement in the mail. It is emailed to me instead. And because the website clearly stated that all documentation must be original and must be on the bank's letterhead I cannot include an emailed version. I assured her that the letter from the bank clearly states my current bank balance.

She looked doubtful.

I asked her to have a look at the letter and tell me it was acceptable. She declined saying that as agents, they were not in a position to give advice to the applicants. "But you have a helpline listed on the website that says one can call for clarification on documents or the process." She agreed, but apparently SHE couldn't advise me. If I wanted clarification, I would have to step back outside, call in to the office (the same office I was currently standing in), ask my questions.... and (here's the kicker) be billed $3.50 per minute for the call!!!!!!

That was when I knew I was in a loosing battle. It simply didn't matter how well I read the website, or how well I'd complied my documents or how well my supporting letters were written. I was going to experience application anxiety regardless for this is how all government processes work. So there was nothing else for me to do but hand over my file and leave...... and then spend the next 5-15 days with a large Cloud of Doom hanging over my every move.



Jules said...

Chickadee, this is exactly what I went through when I applied for my Working Holiday Visa for the UK way, way, way back in May/June 1999. Urgh. Painful process, with much stress and anxiety. However, it all turned out OK and rather than the usual 6 week wait to have the visa issued, mine was turned around in 2 weeks.

So, fingers crossed that all goes smoothly with your application - take a deep breath and try to relax and not stress too much.


Timorous Beastie said...

Ha. British bureaucracy. It sounds like you've done everything you need to do, and everything will be fine. I think visa applications (like PhD applications) are partly a test in reading between the lines, whereby if you are smart enough to figure out the labyrinthine process, they'll reward you with a "Yes".

The Blonde One said...

Just wait until you try to open a bank account there....the horror! the horror!

The Pixy Princess said...

@Beastie - I should have known what to expect. Indian bureaucracy is a bloody nightmare, and after all it was based on the Brit model!

@Blondie - I'm not thinking of those horrors right now. That will be a whole other blog post for when I get there!

@Jules - I'm going to use your being here as mega distraction from this mess!

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