Indian Visa

Our harrowing journey with Zara’s India Visa (in realtime)

For almost two years I have chronicled my experiences with consulates of countries around the world. That guy was horrible! Those people are so inconsiderate! Doesn’t X country want tourists to spend their dollars there ? Belize is racist against Indians and Chinese! (they charge $250 for Indians and $2,500 for Chinese citizens to get visas)

Now it’s time to look home.

You’ve read visa woes from me. This time it’s visa woes for me AND Zara.

For those of you who haven’t been reading lately, we decided to ‘officially’ get married in Las Vegas, USA due to the huge amount of corruption, copious documentation requirements, sewage engulfed Delhi Municipality, and other crazy factors in India. We did celebrate our wedding in India with our parents and had a beautiful wedding reception!

One would think that once you’re married – it becomes easier for you to visit your spouse’s country. I mean, marriage (by law) is a union of families and a government recognized institution. When it comes to tax breaks, marriage is an advantageous thing! But when it comes to visas, well, with the Consulate of India in San Francisco it’s a totally different ball game.

Our journey with them began in late March 2013. We had tried and tried to get legally married in India but it was not going to happen (the marriage registrar was off on holidays due to Holi, etc. etc.). As we were coming to the US as part of our next big trip we decided to get married in Las Vegas, where it’s easy! (as all the movies have repeatedly told us)

Zara would need an Indian visa to return to India with me. But hey, it shouldn’t be any problem once we’re married – right ? Wrong!

Now, I have to digress. Around the world, consulates of different countries have begun outsourcing visa services to agencies such as Travisa, VFS, etc. This is great when your visa application is a very regular, run of the mill, I am a tourist on holiday kind of application. However, when it comes to anything out of the ordinary, the clerks at these services are like robots. They are the most frustrating visa vending machines that you could ever come across. They will not respond to you unless you tender the correct change. (literally, and metaphorically!)

Unfortunately, there remains now no way for Indian citizens to get in touch directly with the consulate regarding visas. Not only are there no contact details (for visa related queries) on the consulate website, you cannot even get a phone number or email address out of the travisa people to clarify your queries! The process has become completely opaque and not something that should be supported on tax payers money.

Visa officer details for CGI SF

Where's the Visa Officer ?

So, coming back to where we were. I found out about applying for Zara’s visa while we were back in India. We were planning to apply for her India visa in San Francisco. The Travisa (the outsourced guys) website says that you must be resident in the US to apply for a visa to India. However, under special circumstances, or emergencies, you may apply for a visa while you are a tourist in the US. Otherwise, you must apply in your home country – for Zara – that is Portugal.

I’ve heard similar stuff from consulates of other nations (Peru consulate in Quito, Ecuador, HELLO THERE!), but this clearly shouldn’t be the case if a) you are married to a citizen of said country b) your circumstance is indeed a special one.

Travisa Point 15 about Short Term Visa Holders in the US


I tried emailing and calling Travisa about this. This, while we were in India. They replied like absolute drones – “Sir, you need to provide proof of residency…”. To which, I replied saying again that we would be tourists, but we would be getting married in the US and would require a visa to go back to India. I clearly explained our circumstance and asked them to confirm with the consulate if it was going to be okay. Alternately, they could provide me with contact details for someone at the consulate and I would confirm myself. They stopped replying to my emails. Just like that.

That brings us to today! It’s 6th of May, we made an appointment with Travisa and showed up armed with all our documents. The moment we got there, the lady behind the counter literally shouted at us “Where is your residence proof ?”. I explained that we were not residents in the US, “No visas without residence proof!”. To which I replied saying that I had emailed Mr. Raj – “Raj, take care of these people!”. Raj was the guy who had emailed me earlier about the residence proof but then stopped replying to my emails. I had sent him two follow up emails spaced about 5 days apart to which he didn’t reply either. The moment he got there, without even saying Hi, he said “NO VISA WITHOUT RESIDENCE PROOF, NO VISA!! I CANNOT TAKE YOUR APPLICATION!”

NO visa without residence

NO visa without residence

“Hi Raj, you’re the guy I spoke to over email, right ? Why did you stop replying to my emails ?”.

His reply: “I stopped replying because I knew you wouldn’t buy what I was saying.”.

Then he continued.. “No we cannot accept a visa without residency and those are the rules of the consulate and so and so ………” (he wouldn’t stop and let me talk at all!)


I had to interrupt him and raise my voice a bit because he just wouldn’t listen to me. At this moment the lady next to him interrupted me and said “Sir, PLEASE CALM DOWN!”

Me ? I’m just trying to explain my situation here.

“Please let me explain myself then ?”

I explained that there was nothing to buy. Point #15 of the visa guidelines clearly states that you CAN apply under a special circumstance if you are a tourist in the US. I also told him that we got married in the US and now Zara needs a visa to go back to India in June. I also added that the consulate is here to help us (Raj agreed), and that it would be ridiculous for us to go to Portugal to apply for the visa (to which he also agreed).

He said “Okay, we will apply but we don’t do the approval, I will try my best, but the rest is up to the consulate.”

Fair enough, I trusted that he would present the case appropriately to the consulate. Boy, was I wrong!

So I asked “When will we know ?” He replied “Come back in the evening at 5.30PM and we’ll know if the consulate said Yes or No.”

I asked if we could just call and he said no, they can only tell us in person. How inconvenient – but luckily we’re about a 10 minute walk away from the office so at least that works out for us!

We returned at 5.30PM. There was another lady behind the counter. The lady who had attended to us in the morning was busy with someone else, Raj was out of sight. The lady behind the counter tried to find our file but couldn’t find it. She realized that the other lady (the one who had asked me to calm down) had closed our file so she could no longer access it on the computer.

She called Raj, but in the meantime managed to find our physical file with all our papers. Right there at the top of the file Raj had written:

Bakshi Sir:

This woman is a non US resident. She has no proof of residence in the US but is persisting a lot. I told her it’s not possible and she should go to her home country. Need a reply from you by evening.

There was no mention of our marriage, or any other part of our story. In different hand writing scrawled below this note from Raj were some lines:

- NO proof of address
- No legal status in the US
- Go to home country and apply

We had effectively been told: “Hey guys, congrats on your wedding but you know what, to help your wife visit your family in India and live there with you, just take a short $2000, 14 hour flight to Portugal and apply for her visa there! And of course we won’t return your $156 visa fees either. TOODLES!”

In all of this, no one at Travisa admitted that Raj’s presentation of our application was in bad faith. This, after refusing to reply to my emails from a month ago, even upon repeated inquiries. When Raj finally appeared and I brought this up with him he started off with “I told you it was not possible, yet you insisted and ….” to which I replied with “Obviously if you present it this way no one is going to care about the application” and so on. I was told once more by the new lady to calm down (I guess I was just having a rather turbulent day!)

I asked him “Who is Mr. Bakshi ? Can I speak to him ?”

To which he replied “I don’t know, he is at the consulate I can’t get in touch with him”.

Further in the conversation he said that he had spoken to Mr. Bakshi over the phone and Bakshi of course said “NO WAY WE CAN GIVE THESE GUYS A VISA!”.

Zara later mentioned: “I wonder how he got introduced to Mr. Bakshi while we were arguing with him!” Food for thought!

Finally, I asked to speak to Raj’s superior. I asked Raj “Are you the senior most here ?” to which he replied “Yes”, then hesitated and said “But I have a superior manager.” I asked “Can I please speak to him ?”

So Mr. Manager came out and he was well dressed and confident. I explained our situation to him to which he pretty much had the same replies. I showed him what Raj wrote but he didn’t want to read it and said “I trust my employees”. Eventually after about 5 minutes of going back and forth Zara said “Would you please read what he wrote and tell us that you made the application to the consulate in good faith ?”. He read it and his reply was “Even if Raj wrote here: Do not grant them a visa – it would have no effect.” I wanted to ask him: “Why did he write anything at all then ?” – but I refrained myself. I told him that Raj didn’t respond to my emails from a month ago and that we flew to the US to get married and finally are at this point. Eventually I asked him to help us and somehow, I managed to convince him to resend the application to the consulate properly explaining our situation. He agreed and asked us to come back tomorrow (7th May) at 5.30PM to check on what’s happening. He said it would take him all day to sort this out with Mr Bakshi!

So there it is, after paying $156 (non-refundable by the way) and getting treated pretty badly by Travisa, I have no idea of what to think of this experience with the Indian consulate. Some may say that this is Travisa and not the Indian consulate but they represent the Consulate General of India, San Francisco, and the consulate should choose it’s representatives carefully.

In all of this, I, an Indian citizen still have NO WAY of getting in touch with the Indian consulate about my wife’s visa. There is no contact number, no email address, and even Mr. Manager at Travisa says he is not allowed to give it out. But, if tomorrow I get a negative response from Travisa, we will have no choice but to pay the consulate a visit ourselves.

In summary, we were told to fly to Portugal to apply for a visa to India for my lawfully wedded wife. I suppose that’s not at all unreasonable.

Stay tuned for more updates as our experience unfolds.


Update 1:

Well, today we went to apply for my visa to Portugal. No, we haven’t decided to fly there to apply for Zara’s visa. We were planning to go there in July for a close friend’s wedding and since we were going to be spending some time in San Francisco we thought we’d get my visa done here as well. The experience was really smooth, one look at the marriage certificate and it was all good. (our marriage certificate is apostilled by the Secretary of State, Nevada so that makes it internationally recognizable for countries that have signed the Apostille Convention)

The lady there was really nice and as per EU rules spouses get free visas, priority processing, etc. Also, residency requirements – while they exist for regular tourists to apply for visas – do not apply for spouses of EU nationals. The Portuguese consulate said that my visa should be ready by tomorrow. Woohoo!

It’s almost ironic considering my absolutely horrendous experience with the Portugal embassy in New Delhi in November 2011. Strange that now it has become easier for me to visit Portugal, and for Zara who never had any trouble getting a tourist visa to India (she had already gotten 5) – now that she’s married to me (and needs a spouse visa) – it suddenly seems to be a massive problem!

We’re heading to the visa office at 5.30PM to meet Mr. Manager. Let’s hope he has some positive news for us. I still think it’s absolutely crazy that they keep on insisting on residence proof when it’s obvious that tourist’s in the US will not have residence proof. It makes me very sad that Indian citizens are treated this way by their own consulate.


Update 2:

Bless twitter! I tweeted last night at India’s Ambassador to the US and she replied today asking for details of our application. Finally! I have reached someone at an Indian diplomatic mission in the US. I don’t know if this will have any affect on our application but at-least it feels like I can reach someone through some means and get an acknowledgement.


The Indian Amabassador's reply

The Indian Amabassador's reply


Update 3:

So I just got a response on twitter from the Consul General in San Francisco. He asked for our info and I hope he is able to help us out. It’s strange that everyone at the top seems to be quite receptive to our problem but Travisa would just brush it aside as a non-issue and say, “Hey it’s the consulate who says you should go to Portugal and apply – we’re just an agency”. Makes me wonder about how honest Travisa is about doing it’s job.


Consul General's Response

Consul General's Response

Update 4:

So we just met Mr. Manager. No dice. The consulate apparently is stuck with their “you must be a resident” requirement – even though their own rules clearly state that you don’t necessarily have to be a resident.

On top of this, I emailed the consul general and received a reply from one of the consuls saying the exact same thing. He also seemed to take particular pleasure in telling me our application was only submitted yesterday (what has that got to do with anything ? – besides being untrue because we’ve been planning this for over a month). There seems to be some kind of misunderstanding – either the San Francisco consulate is unaware of the visa guidelines presented on the travisa website or they simply refuse to look at an application for someone who isn’t a resident here. He basically said: You are a tourist, your wife is a tourist, you have no residence proof, so your application is incomplete.

I responded explaining our situation and also including the infamous Point #15 from the visa guidelines just so that they could take a look at it and tell me WHY OH WHY can we not get a visa here. Just for a recap, here’s Point #15:

15. Short Term Visa Holders: Applicants who are not citizens/residents of the USA and hold a tourist or other short-term visa for the USA should apply for Indian visas in the country of their permanent residence. In case of emergency or special circumstance, an application could be made at the Indian Embassy in Washington DC or Consulates General of India in the USA. In addition to the relevant visa fee there is a reference fee of $20.00 for reference to be made to the country of their original residence. Such cases have a minimum processing time of one to two weeks, and some cases may take longer. (Non US Citizens – Short Term Visa Holders Only)

At this point, I am announcing a $1,000 reward for anyone who can explain to me how you can be a tourist in the US and at the same time have proof of residence. Aren’t the two facts mutually exclusive ? (excluding the fact that you may own a mansion in Beverly Hills and have a utility bill to back that up, what about us regular folks ?) It appears that this distinction is getting very hard to make in this situation.

Either way, the same unreasonable response was received by Mr Hevert, that is actually the name of Mr Manager. He said that he went personally to the consulate and asked them to take another look at our application. Yet, they refused. They said “She must go to Portugal and apply”. It baffles me that the consulate of India in San Francisco takes no responsibility for it’s own guidelines that have been set out on the travisa website. Neither do they show any sort of humanity to Indian citizens by making such unreasonable declarations. Let me break down what they are asking us to do.

So far, we have a ticket on June 12th from Los Angeles to New Delhi India. This ticket is worth about $800. We’ve paid the Indian consulate $156 as visa fees. Now we have to (according to them) fly to Portugal to apply for Zara’s visa before we go to India. So here’s where we arrive with this:

1. $800×2 ticket to India.
2. $156 in visa fees (which they refuse to refund)
3. $970×2 – Cheapest flight to Portugal
4. $156 – fees for another visa
5. $512×2 – Flight from there to India

Grand total: $4,876!

I haven’t even included here the cost of coming to San Francisco and staying here, etc.

It’s baffling that the Indian Consulate in San Francisco doesn’t think that they are being at all unreasonable by asking us to go through this. Even when their rules clearly make an exception for special circumstances. Maybe they should delete the rule if they don’t want to follow it ?

We’re going to head to the consulate tomorrow but honestly I don’t have much hope considering the kind of responses I have seen from them so far. Wish us luck!


Update 5:

So, yesterday (8th May) we made our way to the consulate. We met a lady there at the counter who listened to our story. However, she’s not really authorized to do much and therefore said that she would need to ask the visa officer.

She went to the back to speak to him, and there was loud shouting. I’m not sure of why she was shouted at, but she was. She returned, couldn’t even look us in the eye and said “I’m sorry, you’ll have to go to Portugal, the Consul General himself has said No”.

Our hopes were dashed. I asked her “Can we please meet the visa officer and present our case to him in person ?” She said “No, he doesn’t want to meet you”.

This is shocking!

As an Indian citizen, do I not even have the right to meet the officers at my consulate ? Officers who decide my fate without giving me an opportunity to present my case to them in person ?

As an Indian citizen, I am really disappointed.

In the meanwhile, I got an email from one of the Consuls (the same one who had been in touch with us before) saying that he does not consider our case a special circumstance and that if Travisa had told us we could get the visa here, we should let him know, otherwise, the case is closed.

I sent him a detailed reply with all of our circumstances, from right before the wedding in India and also quoted inline all the emails I had sent Travisa seeking prior confirmation. We had made every effort to confirm our case with them before coming here.

To set the record straight, I had emailed Travisa 3 times asking if our application here will be accepted. I asked them if they could confirm with the consulate OR let us confirm directly (by sharing contact details). They did not reply to ANY of my emails. My first email was dated April 5th, the second April 10th and the third was sent on April 12th.

We also tried calling their helpline number (where we were put on hold for 40mins+ with no response) as well as the consulate phone number (where we never received a response).

Yesterday, out of sheer desperation I called consulates in different parts of the world to see if they could help us somehow. My idea was that when we finally fly back to India, we would transit air side and then go to another nearby country to process Zara’s entry permit. Of course, this will negatively impact the amount of time we can spend with family as well as increase costs for us tremendously but hey, that’s the situation we’re in.

I spoke to the consulates in Nepal, Thailand, Dubai, and Colombo. All of them agreed to process Zara’s visa even as a non-resident. However, the consulate in Panama refused. It appears that not all consulates have the same policy as the one here, and most are certainly not unreasonably strict about them.

I would obviously like to process Zara’s visa in the US. We got married here and it just makes sense. However, we’re up against a lot of opposition – the reasons for which are not completely clear to me, especially given the fact that it is a little bit their fault for not answering the phone or emails regarding this. In summary, they had more than ONE MONTH to tell us “Hey guys, don’t come here, we can’t do this for you.” Especially because we asked THREE times over email and many more over the phone.

The bottom line is that my wife has no way to enter my country upon our return to it.

Seems unfair, but I guess that’s life.


Update 6 (the last one for now..):

I didn’t receive a response from the consulate so I sent in a follow up email. They’ve just sent in a response saying that they cannot help. I simply replied saying that I understand that the answer is No but that it is unfair that Travisa took our money ($156) without confirming our situation with the consulate, especially as we had given ample opportunity to them (3 emails over a month ago) to confirm our situation.

It’s extremely sad that Indian citizens cannot rely on the consulate in San Francisco for help. Nor can we rely on them to clean up the incompetence that their chosen outsourcing agencies involve. In this case the consulate had all the power in the world to turn the situation around. Sure, some bad things have happened but ultimately consulates exist to help their citizens. We pay our taxes to keep them in their jobs and yet cannot expect much from them (at least in the US). Of course Mr. Hevert at Travisa laughed at me when I said that consulates exist to help their citizens. He also made fun of our marriage saying “You think you can just get married and then visit India ?” as if we were just kidding around. I’ve dealt a few times with VFS and BLS (in Dubai) but never come across such massive incompetence and disrespect.

Mr Hevert also told me “Ashray, we have two customers here, you and the consulate”. I wanted to correct him and tell him that “Hevert, you just have one customer. I, and other Indian taxpayers, pay for your other customer to hire you”.

Also, throughout this ordeal I have not met a single person with any amount of power or responsibility at the consulate. The whole establishment may as well be Fort Knox. They have refused to see us time and again. It’s no wonder that the lines for renunciation of citizenship are longer than all the other lines. Possibly as a matter of policy due to the population pressure in India.

Well, that’s where this matter ends in the US for us. We’ll let you know when we know where we are going to finally apply for Zara’s visa.

Time for us to look at alternatives.

Update: Read on to find out how we finally managed to get Zara’s visa for India.

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  • sanchari Says

    This is awful!! I hope it works out!

  • tariq Says

    Wow! That is insane. I’m almost tempted to fly over to SF and slap Raj across the face. You’ve got patience my friend. lol

  • Ayush Says

    Gosh!!!! This is really insane, I hope this other ‘Superior’ really presents your application well… All the best for the application! *fingers crossed*

  • samarjit Says
  • KJ Says

    To be honest, I am not surprised in the slightest.
    The Indian Consulates over here in UK also bare the same attitude.
    They basically don’t give a monkey’s backside if you have a visa, don’t have a visa, married or not married etc.

  • gayathri Says

    It sucks that the Indian consulate is so not reachable and people that we have to get past to get our work done are so incompetent. I would have probably lost it with this Raj! Bitten his head off.

    Would it be possible to look for a phone number in NYC or Washington DC?

    • Ashray Says

      Hey Gayathri, we will try our best with the consulate in San Francisco as we didn’t have plans to visit New York or Washington in this trip. So far the experience has been very negative and we hope we can turn it around with our persistence.

      And the sad truth is that I have to keep my cool with Raj because he and his boss need to help us at this point of time. It’s unfortunate that people can be so malicious without any good reason. His stance was pretty much “I told you that this cannot happen in San Francisco” and so he wants to make sure it doesn’t happen regardless of what the actual rules are – hence his note to Mr. Bakshi at the consulate.

  • Rahul Says

    Classic example of well trained idiots – products of the Indian education system, people that don’t have any genuine comprehension, or the ability to appreciate subtleties and nuances.

    I am sorry for the blogger. I hope things work out soon.

  • sidd Says

    Hey Akshay,
    It is really unfortunate to hear this story.It would have been better for you if you extend Zara’s Indian visa from New Delhi with all valid documents. I had personal experience facing them with my friends. It was easy compare to this hassles.She just enrolled for Classical dance class for year after her marriage to an Indian. Later she submitted her all documents including marriage certificate to extend her stay for a year. Here is the link for more info.
    I hope you get easy solution in future.

    • Ashray Says

      Hey Bedouin!

      We would’ve tried to extend her visa in India if it would have been possible for us. Let me describe the insanity that we had to go through in India.

      The marriage registrar in New Delhi needed a No Objection Certificate from the Portuguese embassy in India. Now, the Portuguese embassy required my birth certificate (a re-issued one with a date of issue within the past 6 months) to issue this NOC. These are EU rules by the way, so the birth certificate is required for most EU countries to issue an NOC for marriage.

      That’s where the rabbit hole gets deeper. Now, my birth certificate is correct, no issues with that. But it does not have my NAME on it. It just says “No Name”. This apparently was fairly standard in India (sometimes people wait for Pandits i.e. priests to suggest auspicious names based on the birth date and time..) and my parents never amended it. So, I would have to go to Agra (where I was born) and get my birth certificate amended. This takes 21 days. Then, I would have to get it re-issued. (this is instant, I believe) Following that, I would have to go to the Agra municipality and get it certified and authenticated as a true copy. Then, I would have to travel to Lucknow to get it certified and authenticated as a true document of the UP Government. After this, I would have to go to Patiala House in New Delhi and get it apostilled. Then, I would have to get a certified translator to translate it to Portuguese. Finally, I would submit it to the Portuguese embassy in New Delhi.

      This would all be required to get an NOC from the Portuguese embassy in New Delhi. Then, we could finally get married in India provided that our Delhi Municipality dude is in his office on the day we show up.

      Life’s complicated ;)

  • Niru Says

    Sorry to hear about your experience, Ashray. The SFO people are really bothered about this residence proof thing, for some reason. I showed up there with an old address on my DL to renew my passport and had a really hard time. They wanted something like a utility bill. If you end up going to the SF consulate, there is a very smart lady employee there who talks very well and clearly to everyone (no yelling, no emotional stuff). Try walking in there and talking to her! Good luck to you and Zara.

    • Ashray Says

      Hey Niru! How’s it going ?

      Yeah I understand their residence requirements for regular cases but it’s insane that under a special circumstance, such as this, they keep on going on about residency requirements. Point #15 of their guidelines clearly states that you can pay $20 extra to have your visa processed as a non-resident of the US. We HAVE PAID our $20. The least they should do in this case is accept and forward our application.

      Their behavior is borderline ridiculous and I am really unhappy that this is the case. Thanks for the tip about the nice lady, we shall definitely head to the consulate tomorrow if we don’t get any good news in the evening today.

  • Varun Achar Says

    Hey Ashray,

    I had the exact same problem with my birth certificate. NO NAME! But, I got mine made in Mumbai itself. Just need to get it made on a Rs 20 affidavit at any local court in Delhi. The lawyers there will do the whole thing, including getting it notarized.

    In fact, you can ask a friend of yours to get it done and then ask one of those Travel/Visa agents to apply for Zara’s visa in India once you’ve received the birth certificate.

    Best of luck!

  • Mariya Says

    Hey there! I am a spouse of an Indian citizen as well. Thankfully, I could get my visa processed in the USA because I am a resident, but TRAVISA has given me hard time as well. They had absolutely no idea how much time it would take for my visa to be ready and told me that the Indian Embassy cannot be rushed, therefore they would take as much time as they need. Which was a good three and a half weeks. Also, I applied for a 2 year visa and paid the high fee, but they gave me a 6-month visa with no explanation why.
    India is the only country which I’ve heard of, where a spouse visa is more expensive for the same duration than a tourist visa. It’s almost like they are penalizing you for marrying one of their citizens. Weird, since India is a bit short on girls nowadays, they should be giving out spouse visas for foreign women for free :)
    We had just the opposite problem with Schengen visa though. As a citizen of Bulgaria, my spouse is entitled to free and painless Schengen visa, but he has to apply in a country in which he is a resident (very similar to your case). He is not a resident in Bulgaria and we went from embassy to embassy in Bulgaria trying to get someone to make an exception. Finally, Norway agreed, but it was on the verge. The case was very similar to yours in the USA (since he was in Bulgaria on a tourist visa), so I am really surprised that Portugal gave you an exception so easily in the States.
    Good luck and keep us posted on the Indian visa!

    • Ashray Says

      Hi Mariya

      Yeah, the Indian visa for spouses/dependents seems to have a really strange pricing structure – especially now that we have to pay for it twice. I’m sorry to hear about your husband’s visa issues as well as the fact that you got charged for a 2 year visa but only got a 6 month one. I suppose the issues may be because Bulgaria is not a member of Schengen (what does that even mean.. I don’t really know..) – it says so here:

      I don’t know about Bulgaria in specific but the EU rules are very clearly outlined in this document.

      I remember reading somewhere that the residence requirement is explicitly waived for spouses of EU citizens. I can’t remember where I read that, however, the French consulate in Houston makes it clear that no additional documents are required except your marriage certificate, spouse’s passport, your own passport, visa application and photograph.

      Of course, all of the above is for a tourist visa, I’m not sure what the requirements for a residence visa are. Maybe the embassies in Bulgaria were not aware of the EU rules ?

      On another note, the lady at the Portuguese consulate in San Francisco was really nice. Maybe that worked in our favor. It’s true that Zara had emailed them previously and gotten an email response saying the same “You need to be a resident..” stuff but we managed to get her over the phone and she seemed to be quite clear about the rules.

  • jitendra kumar canada Says

    Dear Ashray
    As an Indian citizen u deserve better.These ppl dont care
    Good luck to u . And congratulations for your wedding.If u are in Ottawa ,be our guests.

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  • Hari Says

    Sorry to hear about the messed up visa process you had to go through. BTW – Just curious about something trivial you mentioned earlier in the blog. Why does Belize charge such so much for Indian and Chinese Citizens ? Neither countries seem to have any political problems with Belize.


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  • Florian Says

    We had a similar problem with the Indian visa agency in Germany. I’m German, but my girlfriend is from the US and they wouldn’t give her a visa.

    The best solution is to fly to a neighboring country in Asia and get an Indian visa there. We flew to Kathmandu and 7 days later both had a visa for less money than in Germany.

    Flights from Kathmandu to Delhi are cheap with Indigo (EUR 60). Other places with cheap flights and Indian embassies to think about:
    Bangkok, Thailand (60 EUR flight to Kolkata with Indigo)
    Colombo, Sri Lanka (60 EUR flight with Air India to Chennai)
    Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (40 EUR flight to Tiruchirappalli with Air Asia)

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  • JR Says

    Hey, sorry to read about your problems. But I am sorry I don’t agree with most of what you said. For one thing they clearly said that you need to apply for a visa in the country of permanent residence. Yes, they state that in some cases they may grant a visa even if you are visiting US. But it is up to them to decide. Not jut based on what is convenient for you. Marriage is not an emergency or ‘special’ situation. They make the rules and they can decide what they would consider an emergent or special situation. You argue that the guy stopped replying to your email. Well I think he did reply to you twice clearly stating that your wife must be a US resident, right? Did you think he would change his mind if you kept emailing him? These people earn a wage and have tonnes of work to do and are not expected to reply to people asking the same questions constantly.

    I am actually surprised, you are such a world traveler but still so naïve about such things. I learned a long time ago that one must apply for a visa in the country of residence (or country of citizenship). Back before EU, I was visiting UK on my Iranian passport and decided to visit my relatives in West Germany. Guess what? The German authorities in London told me the same thing: I should have applied in US (my country of residence). Later in the early 2000′s I was visiting Dubai and decided to go to India to see Taj Mahal with my new wife. Guess what? The Indian consulate in Dubai told me the same thing: apply for Indian visa in US!!!

    Come to think of it, only your country of residence has your background information. For example, your criminal records, tax info, etc. I didn’t get my US passport till about 10 years ago, and now I appreciate how difficult it was to travel before (and avoided travel as much as I could). Even now I avoid going to countries (been to about 50) that require American citizens to get a visa (Russia, India, China, Brazil, etc). But that is the way the world is, closed borders and beaurocracy and what not.

    Finally, slightly off-topic, but I must say this: Yes, your taxes may be paying for the consulate, but that does not mean that you can should or disrespect officials, specially when they are doing their work and following the rules. The rule is clear to me as I explained previously, they decide what is emergency or special situation not convenience. Sure, all public officials are the same through out the world but would you treat the US consular in a disrespectful manner? Or for that matter the person at the local DMV office? No, but just because s/he is indian or arab or some other 3rd world national we feel like we can be disrespectful

    Don’t hate, educate. Sorry if I seem a bit agitated, but I think you were not being fair

    • Ashray Says

      First of all, there was no disrespect, that is an assumption you have made. Not only that, but you are continuing to assume some attitude of disrespect towards ’3rd world nationalities’.

      We were just trying to get the visa done. Being ‘naive’ world travelers as per your description, we actually do have experience dealing with several consulates around the world. You do not need to necessarily apply for visas in your country of residence. Check the Visas for Indians section on this blog. It is FULL of examples of where and how I applied for visas in different countries without being a resident there. And that was without marriage involved.

      Marriage and visas for spouses are actually treated as special circumstances by several consulates of countries worldwide (including Indian consulates in other jurisdictions). In fact, within India too, marriage carries special status for visa conversions, etc. Direct family members are always afforded special circumstances when it comes to processing papers. Those are the rules. When countries do not do this you have horrendous results like the UKs currently 15,000 children separated from their parents.

      And since you are accusing me of being unfair, is it fair to ask someone to travel 10,000 kms (San Francisco->Lisbon) to apply for a visa to the country of their husband? We clearly have a different definition of fair.

      I find it shocking that given the fact that you avoided travel due to bureaucracy in the past, you would side with the institution on this. It looks like you avoid 3rd world bureaucracy like the plague. If the world is the way you describe it, closed borders and bureaucracy, then it needs to change.

      • JP Says

        First of all, I am glad, this didn’t get into a shouting match – that people can voice their opinions without being disrespectful. I agree, things must change and in a lot of ways they have changed a lot. Open borders are against national interest (due to perceived security, economic and ‘cultural’ reasons). I myself have suffered a long time to get to the place where I am today (standing in lines for HOURS on monthly basis for YEARS) to get my green card and finally my citizenship, and subsequently the same for my spouse. If anything, at least in US, since that horrendous day in Sep 2001 (and due to internet), thing have improved in terms of applying for visa, residency and citizenship. The authorities have become respectful and the process more transparent.

        But, still long way to go… and although there may setbacks, it is my belief that things will improve and borders gradually crumble away. I am basing this on my own experiences and observations after living in the USA for over 30 years. BTW, UK is not unique, although US allows visas to a citizens parents, there are restrictions on same for children (must be unmarried and under a certain age) for immediate processing, otherwise the way can be years. And forget about siblings and other relations… can literally take decades (personal experience).

        Now in continuation to where I (somewhat) disagree with you still: True some countries and even jurisdictions of even the same country (in your case India), may in some circumstances issue a non-resident visa (although I am personally not aware of this, I will take your word on this – since in the aforementioned two cases I mentioned, Germany and India, my application as a non-resident was denied), the Indian authorities still have the final word on whether they consider marriage an emergency or special situation. And yes, I know I would never thought I would side with a beaurocrat vs. a fellow traveler, I don’t think that just because it was convenient for you to get married in US and then want to decide to apply for a visa to go to India, it is up to the relevant authorities to decide if that was so. Again sorry, your travel plans got disrupted and you had to spend more money and risk sending Zara’s passport to Lisbon, but believe me much more worse thing have happened in the big scheme of things to me and people I know, you take it as it comes… enjoy the ride and make lemonade blah blah…

        Correct me if I am wrong: Did the guy tell you no visa granted if not a resident as a reply to your email before you travels? I think you said maybe even twice? But YOU still decided to travel to US. Did you think he was joking or did you think he was just going to change his mind or that he was inept at doing his job. I know it is funny I am siding with an beaurocrat, but he was just following the rules. Think about it, in a different post you side with the US consular who denied the Sikh guy or the mother US Visa, from their perspective don’t you think that they had a reasonable reason for legitimetaly going to US and how ‘unfair’ it may have been to them (perhaps they travelled 500 miles from their village)… The only way you can argue your case against authorities is:
        1. You can show that they are not following a current written rule you can reference (and of course that you are meeting all the requirements and clearances)
        2. That they have said or committed a discriminatory act (knowingly or unknowingly) or have been misleading

        And in some circumstances, even that does not matter. For example, if you come to US on a valid visa, the immigration officer has the final authority to allow or deny you entry for ANY reason whatsoever without any explanation (it has happen to a very close friend of mine)

        I have travelled to a lot of 3rd world countries: India, various middle east, Pakistan, various African countries, Thailand, Indonesia and other SE countries. I just don’t go out my way to go to countries that do require visas (for example the ones I listed before), why should I? It just takes too much time and I never know when I may decide to go someplace tomorrow so need my passport all the time.

        Sorry, I am rambling… if you like we can continue this conversation when you are here in California next time (or if our paths cross elsewhere in the world), we can meet and can chat over dinner and drinks (I am a good host). you have my personal email.

  • JP Says

    I just re-read your blog about Zara’s Indian visa fiasco, and I see you mention that “Raj” only replied to your email inquiry once. But you do say that he explicitly stated that she must have US residence permit in order to be granted Indian visa in SF.

    I also did a quick read of your Visa for Indian section, and according to your own experience it is not an easy task for non-residents to get a visa in a 3rd country due to ‘being up to something funny’ reasons. Yes, there were a couple of cases (I think Bolivia was the one clear standout), but according to your own writing most countries deny or denied such applications (Brazil and Ecuador come to mind, but there were more). Countries like Turkey or Taiwan, etc., don’t count since there was some other agreement as you stated. And you even seem to understand why generally speaking all major countries (1st, 2nd or 3rd world) don’t grant visas to non-residents ["up to something funny"], but seems like you think that some people are ‘special’ and can talk or argue their way through something although they have seen written evidence to the contrary. And if they don’t get it their way they think it is unfair.

    As I mentioned before, this is a law that is designed for security and background check reasons and as I discovered years ago applies to both western (Germany in UK) and 3rd world (India in UAE) countries. You just validate it by giving about 3-5 more examples (and only one (?) counter example – Bolivia)

    (Btw, not that it matters, but although you mention that you didn’t get married in New Delhi because of corrupt beaurocracy, etc, why did you decide NOT to get married in Portugal/Spain – after all that is where Zara is from. I mean why LV? Of course your answer could by why NOT LV :) But then you can’t should ‘unfair’ if what subsequently happened to you was not convenient (not by any definition an emergency or special situation) (By definition, emergency is “a serious, unexpected, and often dangerous situation requiring immediate action” and although ‘Special’ is harder to pin down or define, lots of people get married and even come to USA to get married, so not anything extraordinary). You are generalizing the intent of the clause to fit it to your situation .

    • Ashray Says

      I’ll just say that all the reasons you are mentioning regarding background checks, etc. are not really applicable because the Indian consulate in San Francisco charges a referral fee to ‘refer’ your application to your home country (in this case, Portugal). We had paid this fee as well as part of our application.

      We’ve had further interactions with Indian consulates in other countries (specifically Portugal and Chile) since Zara now has a permanent residence document for India. At every interaction when I have mentioned the San Francisco story, it has been met with shock and disbelief. I think we can agree that not all bureaucrats are bad.

      Furthermore, Raj is not a bureaucrat as you are assuming. Neither is he an employee of the Indian government. Raj is part of an agency that the Indian consulate uses to accept visa applications. What’s more, this agency has been replaced ever since due to its sheer incompetence at handling applications so not all things are bad as you say ;)

      But what is important to note here is that we never met any bureaucrat in this entire interaction. We met Raj, his boss at Travisa, and then we met a lady at the consulate who may or may not have been an Indian bureaucrat or could have just been desk staff at the consulate. At the most, only the lady at the consulate was a bureaucrat and the article does not mention this but when she went in to ask the visa officer if we could see him, he shouted at her (verbally belittling her with some very harsh words) and told her to get out. We were waiting outside the door and heard all this. That was the moment when we decided that we would not pursue this matter any further in San Francisco since it didn’t ‘sound’ like this visa officer wanted to be nice.

      There are many things wrong with the way visas need to be applied for. This is just one of them. As for how special my circumstance was, you admit that you don’t know why we went to Las Vegas. Perhaps you are not fully aware of how special my personal circumstances at the time were? Well, the SF consulate agrees with you, so you have that :)

      People from your country are fighting with these issues day and night today to get to safety and security. I think a little bit of empathy goes a long way in the world. I’m glad that you are surprised at yourself for siding with the institution on this. Maybe you will even change your mind.

  • JP Says

    Fair enough :)

    Just last word: Empathy and all is good (specially since I have gone through a LOT of craps over the years myself), but till laws change, they should be followed fairly, equally and indiscriminately (bribes, non-empathetic favors and/or threats usually are the beginning of the end of a civilization)

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