Saturday, March 17, 2012

An American on business in China, Employed in Australia seeks Indian Business Visa

Warning: Do not try this at home! Oh wait, this wouldn't be a problem at home...

Have you ever wondered what you'd get if you mixed Chinese bureaucracy with Indian bureaucracy and asked an American employed abroad to navigate it? If you did, it was probably a nightmare. So let me tell you my waking version.

First of all, the Indian embassy in Beijing has outsourced their visa processing. Yes, that's right, the Indians outsourced to the Chinese. The Indian embassy is a lovely new building next door to the US embassy, 美大使馆, which is easy to find and all taxi drivers know. The Indian visa processing center is in the next district, the address on the website is in English and google maps has no idea where No 5 Dongshuijing Alley is. I made a poor taxi driver go in circles in Beijing traffic trying to work it out and finally got someone on the phone to direct him. Once there, I went in the front and was promptly shown around the back to a crowded multi-country visa processing center. Thankfully they spoke English and they gave me a checklist that started me on what I consider to be a visa scavenger hunt for all the items on the list.

I remember fondly when I thought the application in Australia for a Chinese visa was hard. Those were the good old days. Now I long for the terse but efficient ladies on St Kilda road that took my form, letter and photos and returned my passport in 2 days.

I spent an entire day attempting to collect all the material for the business visa and discovered that I need an Original copy of a letter from my employer. But my employer is in Australia and I'm in Beijing, and I have 1 week before I need to leave and it will take one week to process the visa. Not going to happen.

So, what do you do when faced with a system that is not designed for your situation? You work around it! So now I'm going to fly to Mumbai as a tourist, and when they ask me why I have a snowboard with me I will tell them it is because I want to ride down the Taj Mahal and promptly get kicked out.

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