Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Thought Picnic: Cowed by the Land of the Sacred Cow

Almost counting for nothing

Sometimes one forgets or fails to appreciate the privileges of being a European citizen and even worse still one of having a purely Western world heritage.

For as long as I know, I have been a European and that is by birth rather than by naturalisation, it has been my core identity to be English but of Nigerian heritage and I make no apologies for that.

However, in the last few weeks I have run the gauntlet of a bureaucratic morass of pedantry that will give the hierarchy of Sicherheitsdienst a run for their money.

The deal that draws

In terms of training, certain countries in Asia offer good value for money at up to 50% savings on similar courses in Europe. Intensive training that allows for courses to be bunched up, examinations to be taken with full-board included are a bargain not to be missed.

So plans were afoot to embark on one of those courses only to find that the hurdles for acquiring a visa were a requirements minefield.

On the part of the course provider, they suggested I get a Tourist Visa and then as if they had not done this before they sent me an invitation letter for the course. I first visited a visa franchise service and there I learnt I needed to get a document proving I was a resident of the Netherlands even though it was clear that my passport indicated it was issued in Amsterdam some 8 years ago.

A tourist on business training

I got all the pieces together with regards to the published checklist and headed for the main visa office with my arrival well before 9:00AM putting me fourth on the list. When as I was submitting my papers, I noticed an error, the system had automatically assumed my nationality and that of my parents were the same.

In any case, it was important to go through the interview process to ensure that on my next visit I will have all that was required.

As they checked my documents they concluded after consulting the manager that I needed to get a business visa, provide letters of invitation, the certificate of incorporation of my company and that of the training provider, declarations, bank statements and evidence of my long-term residence in the Netherlands.

All documents sorted

So, I first went to the library and had all the documents I could processed, then I called the training provider about my experience before sending them an email detailing what they needed to provide.

At the same time, I decided to call their representative in the BeNeLux and he quite helpfully gave me what supposedly was all the essential information to process my application.

Yesterday morning after my visit to the hospital I went to my local government office to obtain the proof of residence in the Netherlands, my arrival and departure did not last 30 minutes and I had the document required – all was set for filing my application this morning.

Not business but entry

Once again, I arrived to be the third in line and submitted my papers for review, the confusion between IT Business seminars in a training company and going for a period for some 19 days suddenly meant I could not be going for a business trip but rather I had to have an Entry visa.

Besides, even though my passport gives no indication of whom my parents are, the visa application requiring that information meant that my Nigerian progeny mattered despite the fact that I am wholly and entirely a British citizen.

My British passport will not suffice they said, I will have to fill in a special form as if I was Nigerian. I had the good mind of calling the British embassy to complain that a subject of the majestic Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland was being treated as less so by an old colony of theirs.

Entry at the back of the queue

In any case, containing my exasperation, I returned to the library, updated my visa application, rewrote my supporting letter and had them printed out before returning to the visa office where I had to join the queue again from behind – I am hopeful that this whole thing will be resolved but I can most assuredly say that I have never felt so frustrated by a process that could be so easy if there was the will and the inclination for that.

Beyond that feeling, this is a country that broadcasts international adverts of its incredible tourist sites and wonders of nature, you will be drawn to visit and suddenly you are met with these hurdles like never leaving base camp when your plan is to scale the mountain.

Patience, I have, favour, I need and luck or better still all the goodwill and blessings to get through this and get it done but this experience could not go undocumented, there is no need to mention which country it is, it should be obvious already.