When the visa dragons decided to red tape me

I write this post from the Mumbai Airport Terminal 2 lounge, where I am finally comfortable after a long few days of feeling like kicking myself in the backside. You will perhaps read it after a few hours when I will be airborne.

You see, I was trying to be loyal to the Royal airline (i.e., the British Airways), and for this, I need to get a visa every now and then, even to transit through the UK to go to a Schengen country. God help me with why do I need a visa for transit to Schengen countries, when I don’t need one to travel to the USA, Australia and some other places via the UK.

The visa costs are prohibitive, and only 6 months (INR 8700/GBP 83), 2 years and 10 year visit visas are available (INR 77500/GBP 738). So depending upon my schedule, I apply for and get a 6 month visit visa that I can use for visits as well as transits via the UK. And all these years I’ve been doing it, I’ve never felt the need for the priority service, because, I’ve managed to obtain a visit visa during the regular timelines, which, for prior visitors has been between 5-8 days at the Mumbai outpost, where the Deputy High Commission takes care of the visa processing. The committed time for a decision however, is 15 working days, which comes to about 3 weeks. Priority visa processing costs another GBP 100 (INR 10500) and I did not value it so far at that high a price.

I thought, it would be done this time around in about 8 days as well! So, I punched in the long online form, took a printout and submitted my fingerprints 10 working days in advance, to make sure I had a couple of days as margin of error. Alas, it seems my luck was not that great this time around.

I was due to be on a business trip around Europe as of Sunday, and the way the trip was working out, it would have been very nice to have had London as the first and last leg, driving the overall cost of travel down.

However, it did not work out. And till Friday, and even on Saturday, my passport did not arrive back in the mail. And I had to sigh, and start cancelling hotel reservations. I sent a colleague on his way, who did the right thing with the priority processing, and sat back in despair wondering how to take things forward.

Monday morning, after much push and shove, I finally managed to get the Deputy High Commission to agree to withdraw my Visa application. They hadn’t processed it yet, and I needed my passport back if I had to salvage the rest of my trip.

I got a call at 12:30 PM, asking me to send them a form with my signatures, requesting the process of withdrawal of my Visa application. And then, make myself available at the Consulate within an hour to collect my passport, since the DHC would close down early due to festivities.

I can only tell you I dumped everything I needed to carry in my bag, and was on my way in 30 seconds. The festivities were a boon in disguise, ultimately, because, I ended up getting around at the exact appointed time to the DHC, and within 15 minutes had my passport back on me, along with the documents I submitted.

And then, I got back home to book myself all those flights which I could have perhaps booked earlier and been hassle free before. A lot of those flights are individual international segments around Europe, and I guess paying for them a few days ahead would have saved me about the same amount of money, if not more, than the wasted money on the Visa application.

Oh, and yes, I’d have arrived on a Sunday and be well rested as well, which I am guessing I am not now!!! Yeah, another kick in my backside for me!

Lesson Learnt?

Experience does not count in Visa applications, stated service times do. Either pay up to the money minting machine, or be ready to wait.

Time for me to get road ready, but I hope my experience teaches you something as well!

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About Ajay

Ajay Awtaney is the Founder and Editor of Live From A Lounge (LFAL), a pioneering digital platform renowned for publishing news and views about aviation, hotels, passenger experience, loyalty programs, travel trends and frequent travel tips for the Global Indian. He is considered the Indian authority on business travel, luxury travel, frequent flyer miles, loyalty credit cards and travel for Indians around the globe. Ajay is a frequent contributor and commentator on the media as well, including ET Now, BBC, CNBC TV18, NDTV, Conde Nast Traveller and many other outlets.

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  1. @Ajay, things worked out ok for me
    my trip postponed by a week and on the 26th received an email from DHC that decision taken and pp being returned to VFS; figure I will collect my pp on Tuesday – well in time (yay!)

  2. thanks Ajay,
    i saw last week’s processing times – unfortunately I saw it when I read your blog – after I submitted my passport

    I will give it until the 25th and then start panicking and call the DHC – that will give me 3 working days to retrieve my passport

    thanks again!

  3. hi Ajay, i am a lot like you – take a 6 month UK visa when required and not shell out the long term dough. I have a business trip for which I am transiting through LHR later this month. I submitted my biometrics today @ Mumbai.

    In the past I have managed to get my UK visa in a couple of days but given your very recent experience I am nervous and have a question for you. Did you contact VFS for the passport or the DHC?


  4. OMG! Feel sorry for you Ajay, but my experience was fantabulous with UK hc,
    This was in jan….
    Wednesday morning– take an appointment here in delhi(was first or perhaps the second one to be served) submit my docs n pp along with my fingerprints n all….
    Thursday goes un-eventful.
    N voila in friday I receive an SMS saying your ppt is ready for collection 😀
    BTW I applied for a non express service with the normal fee.

    Well… I think you rightly said it isn’t experience that counts for Visa, but I would say its luck

  5. if you are on the way to usa no need for transit visa. if transiting to europe/schengen you need the visa. i once did maa-lhr- cdg-lhr bos without transit visa, so only need to have usa leg in the same itinerary

  6. the uk consulate is the most lousy one we have. they never return you the passport in the said time. and their think-tanks are always devising ways to make more money. its not a consulate, its a money makung scheme for them. ive had alot of bad experiences with them. i applied for the fast track visa 4yrs ago n they rejected my visa saying that my passport was damaged when its just been in the most presentable condition. i wouldn’t be flying at all if that were the case. how come immigration in all countries clear me wiyh damaged passport as my work involves alot of travelling. on another instance they returned me my passport beyond the stipulated time. they do all this on purpose just to get people to apply for fast track visa. as they’ve increased the visa prices recently by 3times! hope the indian government realises this hpw the uk consulate is conning people

  7. Hi Ajay,
    I am still wondering, why would you need a transit visa, everytime you fly via LHR. I remember while flying BA transiting in LHR on my way to USA, they waived off my visa requirement for 96 hours and held my passport at the airport itself. Worked like a charm.

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