Family trip to India: The Visa

Obtaining a visa for India immerses you fully in the culture, or should I say the bureaucracy, of this most bureaucratic of nations.

As you might have read in an earlier post we’re off to India.  However, getting organised for this bucket list trip has been a bit of a challenge.

The Indian government has outsourced its visa services to a company called VSFGlobal, which is meant to streamline the process. There is a glitch in the website when I tried to download the application forms and I eventually have to call one of those expensive 1900 numbers in order for someone to email me a direct link to the appropriate form.  Success at last.

While the bureaucracy is a bit outdated, it has to be said that inclusiveness is a strong point for India. If you’re transgender there’s a box for you to tick.

The photo issue is the next hurdle. You have to upload digital photos of a specific file size and  dimension (a minimum of 300 x 300 pixels).  Try as I might I can’t make my pixels adjust so I end up sending the passport photos off to a man in Bangladesh to resize and shape via the freelance website fiverr. We all look like we had a bad case of mumps when the distorted images arrived back, but they seem to do the trick.

“You need to send each application in a separate envelope,” the VSF officer had told me when I’d eventually contacted them by phone, “and each one has to be sent registered post.” That was going to cost an additional $50 per application. So I decid to take them directly the the VSF office in Sydney’s CBD myself. But not before completing the visa application checklist – which has to be submitted for each application and signed by both parents in the case of a child’s application, and accompanied by a copy of the children’s birth certificates. Come lodgement I’ve forgotten to get my husband to sign so I do a mad dash to his office so that I have everything ticked off.

Parking in Kent Street costs me more than the photo resizing on fiverr, I note. On arrival at VSF I take four tickets from the queuing system thinking that I’ve got four applications to sort. And then I realise I’ve taken the wrong category of visa application so I take another four. Worried that I might come a-cropper, I approach a gentle-looking man behind a desk. He rolls his eyes when he sees my eight tickets. “One is enough,” he sighs. As luck would have it when my number is eventually called it’s him I speak to. I proudly hand over my checklist and applications , which I’ve been working on now for two weeks. He takes one look at the additional passport photos I’ve supplied and tells me they’re wrong. “They need to be two inches by two inches,” he says. He sees my despair. So near and yet so far, and takes pity on me. “Your photos are wrong but we’ll submit them anyway and see how they go. If you’re rejected you’ll hear about it and can bring new photos in.”