Tuesday, September 16, 2008

My Big Fat Visa Application

We didn't seriously expect it would be simple, I suppose!

The website told us to put our passports and visa applications into the Embassy in the morning, b tween 9.00 and 11.30, and then we will be able to pick up our passports (complete with visa) in the afternoon (or possibly the next day) between 2.00 and 3.00. Well, that sounds simple enough.

So we booked tickets on the 06.10 train from Norwich to London in order to be there in time for the doors opening, and we booked an overnight in a hotel so that we still could be there the next day. And so there we were on the steps of the Saudi Embassy a few minutes before 9 am!

We stared long and hard at the sign on the door. It explained that during the fasting month of Ramadan the hours of opening are 10.00 till 12.00. OK. Didn't think of that, and it wasn't mentioned on the website. It wasn't so surprising, and we could (would have to) wait - along with the other ten or so people who were also apparently taken by surprise.

The start of the queue at the Embassy door.

New System

On the stroke of ten o'clock, the doors were opened and we went through the security check one by one. And one by one we discovered that (since three weeks ago) it is no longer possible to put in individual visa applications, it has to be done through a travel agent! Fortunately we didn't have to go and find an agent, one would be presenting themselves at the embassy to help us out in just a few minutes.

Sure enough a pretty little blonde thing (Swedish, I think) showed up, and we all trailed off after her through the streets of London to her newly-rented, unmarked office on Piccadilly. The only clue as to who we were dealing with was a hurriedly printed business card with hand written phone numbers and the business name "Able Can".

Our visas would cost 96 pounds each, and for another mere 59 pounds (each) these people would carry our passports and application forms back to the Embassy, and pick them up in a couple of days and mail them to us by special delivery.

So we would be staying in Norwich, waiting in hope.

(The next day we had a phone call from the travel agency to say that they had our passports and were sending them by special delivery so they should reach us the next day. On our way!)

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