You would think, being born in India, I would have an easy time getting an Indian visa as a U.S. citizen. Boy, was I wrong, and completely disgusted the way I have been treated by whoever runs the Consulate and their outsourcing company CKGS. Here is a short summarized story of what I went through, and am still going through in my quest for a tourist visa, writes Suhel Singh.
Last year, I was informed by my uncle, that his son (my second cousin) was getting married in February. My family and I were unsure if it would be possible to attend the wedding due to work and other engagements. However, around December 2014, when we were able to take leave from work, I went looking for tickets, and also researching the process on traveling to India as I have not been back in 6 years.
In January, I started gathering the required documents requested on the CKGS website, where it clearly listed that “please apply at least 15 days before traveling.”
After gathering all the required documents (one of which was my Indian Passport that was renounced after obtaining U.S. citizenship) I submitted my visa application to them along with purchasing my travel tickets.
Yay! That was the word and feeling exhibited by me when I checked the status of the application on the CKGS website showing that it was successfully received and pending processing.
My mother and I got an email a few days later stating the visa had “Incomplete / Missing Documents.” What were those incomplete / missing documents? As listed below in the body of the email, “Please provide an notarized affidavit stating if your parents and grandparents ever held Pakistani passports and/or citizenship…”
My parents and I are Indian citizens by birth, who later renounced their passports / citizenship upon becoming U.S. citizens. But if they asked for something, we’ll have to provide it. So we did, a professional letter affidavit notarized and sent back within 24 hours.
Once again, their online portal showed its been received, and yet again to my disappointment, a reply stating missing / incomplete documents.
What was the reason this time?
The affidavit is not in the correct format, and this time (I don’t know how they missed such an important part) they decided to provide a draft format, which itself was not correct / complete because instructions stated “Please add this line underneath format.” Not to mention, in this one, they wanted us to state that we also never held Pakistani citizenships / passports.
Seriously? We have never even been to the country, are born in India, have U.S. citizenships which were given after renouncing the Indian citizenship / passports, yet these are the type of questions and clearances they are requesting?
We filed the papers again, in their requested format (the one they forgot to mention or send over the first time) got it notarized again, and sent it back within 24 hours, using Overnight courier service because our travel date was fast approaching.
We waited, and waited … to travel back to our motherland, the country in which my parents and I were born, and no this story doesn’t have a happy ending.
Two days before our travel date, an email came with the same subject as the last two emails, “Missing / Incomplete Documents.” However this time, there was no request for an affidavit, no request for a correctly formatted affidavit, matter of fact, there was no mention of any “missing / incomplete document” at all, yet that is exactly what the email and message stated.
Upon further examination, countless calls to CKGS, and the Consulate, we are told “the visa application is under review.”
It is Feburary 24, 2015, today. It will be almost 2 months soon, yet looks like our highly sophisticated visa application is currently still under review.
At one end the Indian government is portraying a rosy picture of a perfect tourist destination, Incredible India. The Prime Minister promises a one-window access to services and yet when it comes to providing a simple tourist visa, the process is so cumbersome, intriguing and one the whole messed up.
Apologies to my uncle and my second cousin for missing the best day of both of your lives, I wish I could have been there to celebrate with you, unfortunately I didn’t foresee how hard my own birth country and their respective partners (the San Francisco Indian Consulate / CKGS) would make the process. We will meet again, one day. [/two_one_first][two_one_second]
When contacted, the Indian Consulate in San Francisco responded, “It is to inform that each visa application is treated on its own merit and as is processed as per extant rules. While in most cases, we expeditiously process the application within 3-5 working days, there are some applications that require additional administrative processing time. As it happens the processing is now complete and now we would be in a position to issue the visa and have contacted the applicant accordingly. Earlier, the passport of the applicant was returned so that in the interim, he is not inconvenienced.”
We are yet to receive any response from CKGS.