So in my experience, most things in life go as planned or with a minor deviation. I am well organized; I complete my work on time. I don’t think I ever handed in one assignment late in school, EVER. Once I made the decision to take an assignment in India, things seemed to move as planned. We took a pre-move trip, found a house on the first day, visited all three schools, the kids were accepted to our first choice, Doug was given a LOA from his employer. I was beginning to feel like the stars had aligned and I had surely made the right choice because everything had fallen into place like clock-work. The last big task to get the family to India was to secure the Employment Visa for me and entry visas for them. For anyone who has never lived abroad or worked abroad, there are a series of steps you have to take to gather the necessary documentation before applying for the visa. Employment Visas require sponsorship from your employer (I know Duh!) and often need letters supporting why you are needed verses a citizen of the host country. In the US these visas are known as H1B visas. Some governments are easier to work with than others…
India loves bureaucracy, paper copies, carbon copies, pictures, multiple confirmations and processing. I have learned this in the most painful way possible. The visa process required the following for me:
1. Employment offer letter for the position in India
2. Justification letter as to why me over someone in India already
3. Visa Application
4. My transcripts (yes from 15 years ago!!!)
5. My diploma from Michigan
6. My drivers license
7. My Passport
8. My birth certificate
9. A Letter from Accenture in the US saying they were sending me to India
10. A letter from India confirming I will pay taxes in India
11. And a marriage license to prove Doug was really a legal dependent for his entry visa
And of course, all of these things had my name, salary, career level and passport number on them. It was a summary of my life, worth to my employer and all the necessary information for identify theft.
So you can imagine my angst as I created this 50 page packet for the 5 of us, made a photo copy (because I not only needed to send my originals but a copy for the consulate to keep on file) and then a photo copy for myself (just in case). This was not a green activity. As I bundled up my files and slipped them into a FedEx envelope, I thought – I hope this makes it! This was July 13th. The expected processing time once received was 4-5 days for the visas.
A few days passed…Then the drama began. The third party expeditor you must use to apply for a visa contacted me (this is necessary because the Indian consulate will not deal directly with applicants) regarding missing documentation. Apparently my justification letter was not robust enough. No other context. Ok, not the end of the world. I waited until late in the evening when I could contact India to update the letter and send it back so my application could be resubmitted. A new justification letter was submitted on July 22nd. We still plenty of time to get our visas in time for a July 30th departure.
July 28th, I am contacted again by the third party vendor, my justification letter is missing a statement “Skills not available in India” is the feedback we are given. Ok I am starting to worry, so we submit a new letter. July 29th, I am denied my visa! Chaos! Confusion!
I immediately called the person who I know will calm me down and know what do to, Fiona (she has been my supervisor for the last 3 years) and usually at the receiving end of travel chaos. Fiona went to the top and got me help from our immigration attorneys. I broke the news to my family we are not going to India tomorrow as planned… it might be 2 more weeks (which really morphed into 19 days).
Several things could have been done better or differently to avoid some of the delays and aggravation, but in the end I learned that the US government had rejected a material number of H1B visas for Indians coming to the US. In fact, Indians were showing up at US airports and being turned away in the month of July. It’s no wonder the Indian consulate needed a little more proof that I was necessary in India! On August 5th my visa was approved and the kids were approved on August 12th.
Patience and deep breathing… plus vodka, rum, and potato chips got me through this bump in the road.