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Though theatrical comedy is sometimes considered an exaggeration of real life, yet real life sometimes beats theatrical comedy by its pure farcical rendition.
My niece is married and has two children and lives with her family in their own house in London. For the past couple of years she and her husband have been giving me a hard time to go visit with them for some time. Finally, this summer I agreed and applied for a visa.
Here started my adventure. I am over 60 years old, I am financially independent, I live in my own house, I am single with no children. But I do have a house and garden filled with 8 dogs and 4 cats, have three full time employees, have my brother here, dozens of cousins and friends. But when I fill in an application the only questions asked are if you have any dependants, that is, any elderly parents or children. As my Mom had passed away a couple of years ago and I don’t have any children, then according to official documents I am considered as not anchored enough to my country, which would cast me in a slightly doubtful light as to returning to it!
Then comes the application form. I accessed it over the net, and being very meticulous, read all the instructions fully and complied with all the requirements as accurately as possible. I was asked to give a specific date of departure to my destination and a specific date of return from there. Here I had a bit of a dilemma. My niece’s free time was rather vague, her mother would be visiting and she had certain commitments, so the only thing I could do was give dates that would cover the three months she could receive me to ensure that my visa covered the time we could finally settle upon. So when I put in the dates, automatically the first option for a visa came up as for 6 months though I was shooting for three. But as there was no choice so I had to go for the 6 months one.
As I would be staying with my niece I gave her name and address, specifying that I would be staying with her. But I was also requested to say what I would do there so I said sightseeing, going to the theatre, dining out and some shopping.
I also happen to have a very dear friend who has been trying to persuade me to travel there at a time to coincide with her visit and for me to stay with her part of the time. As I was going to be there at the same time, so being again meticulous in my answers, I gave her name and address as another place where I might be staying.
Then came some very specific questions about my finances, which I answered very honestly and even provided bank statements to that effect.
One specific question on the application form asked if I had any relatives residing there. Of course I did. My niece lives there. But the answer was restricted to “parents, siblings or children”. Well I had none of those so had to say no.
After filling in the form and submitting it, paying the horrendous fee in their own currency, I had to print it out and go, with my passport and personal pictures (very specifically detailed as to size, facial expression showing all features) and any previous passports, as well as bank statements covering the previous 6 months, and submit all to an agency acting on behalf of the embassy to collect these documents. Again through the computer an appointment was set for me to go submit my documents. In an ideal world that would have made things run smoothly, but on getting there I discovered that I needed to pay what they called a “walk-in” fee. Ok. At least I could do that on my computer. When finally done I had to go through three queues before I could give my documents ( they did not want the pictures required as per the site) and get a receipt, then go be photographed, have my voice recorded, be fingerprinted then told that I would be contacted when the process is done. How long did that take? Three hours! And I felt absolutely ragged. I felt humiliated and exhausted. If I was a criminal going to jail I don’t think I would have been submitted to anything more. But it was finally done and all I had to do is wait for them to notify me of its completion.
I submitted my application on 14 August and got notification to go pick my passport up on 4 September. So the next day I went. Picking it up was a fraction of the hassle that submitting it was.
I opened the package and discovered that my application was refused! The reason given for refusal was so funny, I did not even feel offended. The wording was very polite, and I must say quite logical. But because of the extreme limitation of the application form, the bases on which the assessing officer based their decision were all warped. But then again, how would they know that, given the limitations of the questions on the application form?
This whole experience demonstrates how limited written communication can be in conveying the right information. I am sure that the assessing officer is not aware that the form limits the relatives to parents siblings and children, or else I would have written my niece in that box. This seemed to have weighed with them a great deal for I seemed to have been caught giving conflicting information. I am sure the same officer is unaware that once you put in dates of expected arrival and departure that the computer then automatically chooses for you the next longer period for your visa duration. I put in 3 months so the only option I had was for 6 months. When the officer read that I applied for six months but will be staying with my niece for three only, of course they became suspicious, especially as they were not even sure that she was my niece because her married name is different from mine.
I really cannot blame the assessing officer for the refusal, but something has to be done for their application form to reflect a more accurate assessment of the person applying.
If ever there was a comedy of errors, that is it. But we live and learn.

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