Aren’t us Brits lucky? When we’re off on our holidays, we often don’t have to think about whether or not we’re allowed into a country as we’re able to swan about 50 countries quite freely that collectively make up Europe (let’s forget about the whole Brexit debacle for the time being shall we?). But seriously – I might just be a little naive surrounding this topic, as having not travelled all that much, but can you blame my lack of thought on this topic when everywhere outside of Europe that I have visited has granted me a visa exemption, simply for having a British passport? Enter: India.
Since last year, I’ve banged on about my travel plans for so long that I had decided that December payday would be the day that I implemented these plans, the first stop being India. Ever since I was tiny I remember watching The Little Princess for the millionth time (erm, hello if you don’t know what this is, go watch it now please, or after you’ve read this post maybe). India has since been on my bucket list of places to visit, especially visiting the Taj Mahal, ohhh I’m crying inside thinking about it! I picked up the phone and booked my place on a whistle stop tour of North India through STA. That was easy – deposit paid and I was encouraged to book my flights ASAP and to apply for my visa. So that is exactly what I did.
I had heard a few mild horror stories about how meticulous the India High Commissions office were in regards to checking applicants, so I made sure I duly filled out my application ready for my appointment. When I had arrived at the commissions office in Manchester, I had this sinking gut feeling that something wasn’t right. I’m normally quite optimistic, but this just didn’t sit well with me at all. They say to always listen to that gut feeling, and boy was mine right.
It was my turn to be called up to the desk to have my application checked and almost immediately, much to my surprise, I was told that I was missing several documents. It turns out that regardless of being born in the UK and being in the possession of a British passport, my visa application was determined by where my Grandparents were born – yeah that’s right. First I’ve ever heard! I had to return with extra documents before I could even apply for a visa, along with being told that my application would take a minimum of 7-8 weeks as opposed to the normal 2 weeks maximum for British passport holders.
The extra documentation I needed were:
- A notarised letter of invitation from someone in India
- A copy of this persons identity (passport)
- 3 months bank statments
- 2 forms of ID
- A letter of employment
- utility bills
As you can imagine I was completely distraught & I frantically began trying to rearrange my tour and flights as the minimum processing time would have taken me right up to my departure date and I would have lost out on a sh*t tonne of money. If being slapped in the face by my Grandparents birthplace wasn’t enough, I also had to deal with awful customer service from STA when cancelling my tour. Apparently I was ‘confused’ about the visa process and was told that I was clearly doing something wrong as I’d get a visa within 2 weeks – they call themselves travel experts!? Not only did these guys jump at the chance to take my money when initially booking, but they were also completely unaware of the restrictions surrounding Pakistani-British citizens. Urgh! I know I’m partly to blame with putting the wheels in motion before having a visa granted, but seriously, how was I to know!? It’s been news to almost everyone I’ve spoken to (ironically, it was common knowledge to my grandma).
I eventually managed to gather all the documentation that was needed and the lovely Anushka and her mum helped me obtain my letter of invitation, as I believe this one’s the one thing that is most definitely going to get that visa granted. Application: Submitted
At this point, I had planned to wait it out to see if I was one of the lucky ones in hopes that my dream trip to India would be going ahead. I thought I had it all figured out; I could book onto another tour at a later date and it was possible to change my flights, so we’re all good! It wasn’t until I did a quick Google search and found heaps of people flooding forums surrounding this exact topic and all the hassle everyone had gone through with the damned visas. To put it in a nut shell, anyone from a Pakistani background rarely gets granted a visa due to political issues surrounding India & Pakistan. They hate each other. Fact. And little old me, did not know that this was such an issue and a part of me really wish I bloody did.
The issue I was having now was that my passport was being held down in Birmingham somewhere and apparently if I was even granted a visa, they could limit my visa grant to a very limited number of cities, meaning I was most likely unable to part take in the tour I had booked. Everything was just looking a complete mess & ultimately, I decided to cancel my visa all together so I was able to get my passport back and sod off to Thailand instead. After waiting another painful 2 weeks, I finally got my passport back and all was right with the world (except that I’m £500 down).
Moral of the story? Don’t book with STA travel, cause they’re not travel experts by any means & Google the sh*t out of whether it matters where your Grandparents were born before visiting India. (As far as I’m aware, it doesn’t matter to other countries)