Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Indians and visas: the nightmare

Anyone that has traveled with an Indian friend, boyfriend, family member, or is an Indiam him(her)self knows that Indians need visas to go almost anywhere in the world. This means that whenever A. and I want to travel abroad he needs to get one. Sometimes it is easier (like getting a Brazilian visa by mail in the USA), sometimes it is expected (like the hassle everyone goes through to get an American visa), sometimes it just happens to not be so hard (like when there is a Mexican consulate in Raleigh that is always empty and doesn't even require appointments) and sometimes, like today, it drives A. crazy.

Some friends of ours from the USA suggested an end of the year trip and we ended up settling on Morocco. At the time we got the tickets I mentioned to A. that he needed a visa and he said he's get it (without having checked what it entailed). As the trip is less than a month away now A. and I started searching for information on how to apply for a visa. The website did not help (all in French, and even after translation it did not provide much info) and upon calling them I was told that for Indians the visa application was sent to Morocco for approval, which could take up to 6 weeks!! Needless to say we headed to the consulate the very next day (today) to apply for the visa. The Moroccan consulate turns out to be about 2.5 hours by train from A.'s apartment... which means that he missed a day of classes. I went with him for the moral support, hoping to catch up on the work later in the week. Arriving at the consulate was interesting... an old house, with lots of papers pasted on the walls (in French and mostly in Arabic), many people sitting around in confusion and lot's of offices filled with desks covered in papers (and with oil paintings of old men on the walls). A. went in.

The guy takes all the papers and hands him a "new" visa application form to be filled out saying that the application A. had downloaded from their website was an old one. Then A. returns with the new form and the guys goes through all papers and passport and starts asking questions:
"So, your name is A.?" (No, duh, his name is Mustafa!)
"Are you from India?" (Hum... had he just gotten the wrong cover for his Canadian passport??)
"So you are married to a German woman?" (Yes, I'm both Brazilian and German... but I like the stress on woman he put in the sentence).
"You and your wife live together?"
"Does she work?"
"Why do you want to go to Morocco?" (Because it happens to be nice and warm when it is chilly here)
"Why Morocco?" (By now A. was questioning that himself...)

So he kept A.'s passport and said that the visa might be done in a week. There is no proof A. ever applied for a visa or that they have his passport (which happens to be his only ID in France), except for a handwritten note with a name and a phone number he should call in one week. And then 2.5 hours to get there and 2.5 hours back...

As I mentioned above, I have dual citizenship (my grandparents on my father's side were German and the nationality was passed down to me). Having a developing and a developed country passport has turned out to be super useful to travel around. No need for visas, even work authorization in Norway, etc.

But visas also reflect a country's foreign policy. Brazil's visa requirements are based on the rule of reciprocity: if a given country requires an entry visa for a Brazilian citizen then Brazil requires an entry visa for citizens of that country. This is why Americans need a visa to go to Brazil but Europeans do not. On the other hand, only citizens of Buthan, Nepal and Maldives do not need a visa to visit India...

If you are interested in checking out how many countries you can visit without needing a visa, check out the Henley Index. The score each country gets is the number of countries that it's citizens do not need a visa to visit.

Any horror stories to share?


  1. unfortunately, acquiring visa is for the most part an unpleasant experience. i visited Morocco in 2005 and had an awesome time visiting Tangiers, Fez, Meknes, Moulay Idris, Rabat, Marrakesh, and the Ouarzazate region. i hope you both enjoy this wonderful country.

  2. Hi Tabh!
    Thanks for your comments! I only know Fes and Tangier from a previous trip and we're hoping to go to Marrakesh and some other places you mentioned. What would you recommend in Ouarzazate? We're hoping to spend some days in the desert but I have not found a good recommendation yet...

  3. When Aj and I started planning our Europe trip, he drove to Los Angeles to get the Schengen visa. I think it was the Italian consulate he went to. The lady there was so rude to him. When we told her we were only going to be in Rome for 2 days, she told us that was not possible. How dare we only spend 2 days in Rome! She was literally upset that we weren't staying there longer. I thought that she was talking about a minimum stay length in a city or something, ha. Then he said we are spending only 2 days in Paris and she got even more mad. She gave us a lecture about how it is so impossible to visit the cities in only 2 days. He told her that we only have 12 days and wanted to see as many cities as possible. She didn't like that answer. We seriously thought that she wasn't going to give him the visa but after an hour of going back and forth, she finally got it all stamped and signed off.

    When we went to Mexico, the Mexican consulate here started speaking Spanish to him when he walked in. They wouldn't speak in English because they thought he was Mexican.

    He constantly gives me grief for not having to have a visa to go to so many places.

  4. Hi Kayla,
    Yup, A. also gives me grief for not needing visas.

    And whenever we are speaking English in Latin American they come to him speaking Spanish/Portuguese thinking that he's the local and I'm the tourist. He does like this though. :P

    Thanks for your comment!

  5. Hi Samba,

    we took the bus to Ouarzazate region (may be from Marrakesh). then we rented a car and drove around the area for two days or so. we had fun doing this and meeting the locals. sorry for not giving any specific location tips for this region.


  6. Hi Tabh,
    Thanks! It helps to know it might be worth renting a car.

  7. hey sambaaa hahaha my husband is a indian me im mexican/canadian i live in dubai and is so hard to get visas for him!!! i understand what u wrote on ur blog!!