Tuesday, 22 November 2011
let me in
Have I mentioned that I'm going away for Christmas ?
Maybe just once or twice.
TWO WEEKS !!!
However, I have some advice for any of you that ever want to travel to India.
Get your Visa as soon as possible !
I'm ok, I have mine, but there has been an issue with one of them, and for the MOST ridiculous reason. There are nine of us going, one of whom is a four year old. The back story here is that although her Father was around when she was born and so his name is on her birth certificate, he and her Mother broke up soon after and he has not been seen since. His loss. Consequently there has never been any kind of custody hearing, but as far as anything of a legal nature goes ie Tax Credits, benefits and the like her Mother is officially a single parent.
She has been to India for the last three years with her Mum and there has never been an issue with her Visa before, they have just included a copy of her Tax Credit entitlement and a letter explaining the situation with the application.
We all began the Visa process online, then my friend went up to London to the Embassy and handed in all our passports and photos. The next day we got a phone call from them saying that they were all fine, apart from the little girls as they needed to see her full birth certificate. In the UK you can have a short version - which is absolutely fine when it comes to claiming benefits, opening a bank account etc but not apparently for the fucking Indian embassy, they want to see the full one.
Which not everyone gets anyway, as you have to pay.
But, whatever, if that's what they want.
The guy said he would send an email immediately after the call, checked the mail addy, and we could scan the birth certificate and attach it to a reply. So her Mum got in touch with the records office and ordered a full copy.
However we did not get that email.
As we are running out of time her Mum decided to take it up in person, so yet another trip to London.
A few days later she got a text saying the Visa was processed and would be arriving by courier the next day.
It never arrived.
At this point, assuming there had been a problem with the post, she decided to phone the Indian Embassy.
Let met tell you it would be easier to find the combination for the safe at the Bank of England then get their fucking phone number. The website tells you when to call but not where.
Eventually she rang the couriers that deliver them, and luckily they had the number.
Then we find out that a) it has not been posted, because b) they need more information, which is c) a court order stating that she has custody, or d) they want to see her fathers passport.
Again she explains the situation.
But no matter - the person she was speaking to just kept repeating "we need to see a court order". Eventually we can hear that she is starting to get angry, and realising that will get her nowhere tell her to get the number for the complaints dept and end the call.
I rang the complaints dept and explained the situation.
Ever get the impression that you are speaking to someone who either isn't listening or doesn't want to. They are like talking to a fucking stuck CD. I think they just learn three English phrases and are told to keep repeating which ever seems most likely to fit. Yeah fine English is not your native language, but you are working in a place that deals with non-Indian people who want to visit your country - which relies heavily on tourism - so for fuck sake at least make it SOUND like you want to help them get there.
I also pointed out that clearly one end of their organisation does not know what the other is doing - otherwise why was a text sent saying it was on it's way - when clearly it wasn't. Although in a way that was a good thing as we would not have known any of this unless we had called to try to find out where it was.
I was told to call back at the end of the day, which I did, only to be told - yet again - that they needed something from the court or a solicitor.
Exactly which part of we don't have one of them because we don't need one is that you are failing to grasp ?
There is a happy ending. Her Mum went and got a letter from a solicitor - which she had to pay for - and this was taken up (again to London) on Tuesday. Even this was not acceptable at first. In then end manipulation and lies were used, and they were told that her Father was a drug addict and if forced to contact him it would bring shame and distress to the child.
Apparently at this the guy dealing with it said he "would not want to bring shame on anyone's family".
Yesterday the Passport was returned with the Visa granted.
Which just proves the rules are NOT set in stone, and can be bent when they want to.
At first we could not understand why they made this so difficult, but we came to the conclusion that it's perhaps that India is a culture where single parents are probably not that common. So when they made their new rules they did not make allowances for every eventuality under which that can occur where you might have no contact and/or no desire to.
What if a childs Father had totally disappeared ? He might not even be in the country anymore.
What if the Father was dead ?
What about people who leave their partners because they are violent ?
What about kids who have no contact with a parent because of abuse ?
But they want our Tourist income. Even if that meant telling a child that her entire family are going on holiday and she is not allowed to come.
Do they want to be the ones to explain that to her ?
We gave them NINE Visa applications, and they processed all but one. Even though they can see that the one they refused belongs to a child whose parent they have just granted a Visa to.
What's she gonna do ? Stay at home on her own.
And why has she suddenly been refused after three years of going. Apparently because they changed the rules. As my friend said to them "your rules might have changed but my circumstances have not".
However - there would've been none of this if her Fathers name was NOT on the birth certificate.
So, despite their family orientated culture, from the child's point of view it would be easier to get a Visa if she had the stigma of having no named Father rather then an absent one.
If they had not granted it then they would effectively be punishing a four year old for having a Father who is a waste of space with no interest in her.
If forced to find him and take him to court that could cause a whole load of emotional distress for both the child and her Mother.
When she was still a baby her Mother started a new relationship, and this is the man that the child looks upon as her Father. He treats her as his own and she calls him Dad. What would it do to a four year old - who although she knows he isn't her birth father, has this Man as a constant consistent reliable caring figure in her life - to suddenly have this other prick appear and be told THIS is actually your Dad.
Because he was given every opportunity to be in her life - he chose not to.
And rejection is hard enough to deal with as an adult, never mind when you're four.
And all because the Indian Embassy are refusing to let you into their country for a holiday unless you make contact with him.
Why does a child even need a tourist Visa anyway ? Especially when travelling with her family.
It's not like she's going to be looking for a job whilst we're there, even though her £40 Visa has ended up costing her Mum close to £250.
Although it's India, I suppose they think we might be sending her off to a sweat shop - or be planning to cut off her arm and send her out to beg.
Did I say that ? Oops. They might not let me in.
But again. . . TWO WEEKS !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!