“Of all the books in the world, the best stories are found between the pages of a passport” – Unknown
And quite literally so! This story is about something that exists exactly between the pages of a passport!
We now have multiple Schengen visas stamped on our passports so we made a mistake of assuming that it would be a cake-walk when we applied for another one in March 2017. After the customary hassles and confrontations at the VFS Global, our visas landed for processing at the French Embassy in Mumbai. I already had a previous Schengen through French Embassy. May be that’s the reason when the embassy processed my visa, I was granted a multi-entry 1 year visa. But TH (The Husband) got a call that his visa will not be processed since his passport is TORN. Now when we heard torn, we imagined complete disaster of loose pages. Additionally we were also racing against time as we had less than a month before our travel.
TH’s passport came in the courier and what we saw was a lame excuse of a torn passport. Only 2 stitches had come undone. That’s it! But we had no option but to rush to Tatkal (urgent) passport facility to get a new passport. Once there, the challenge was to justify “torn”! The state that the French embassy called torn was barely so in Indian passport office’s opinion. Now WHO else has such problems but for the people chosen by Mr. Murphy?!
TH managed to convince the officials about the need of an urgent new passport and got it issued in no time. Kudos to the Indian Passport Authorities for being super-efficient!
Once the passport was done, visa was a breeze but TH got his visa valid only for the trip duration.
Now let’s get back to my complex visa matrix:
- In March 2017 I get (TH doesn’t) a multi-entry 1 year validity visa with 90 days stay duration allowed. I am so happy that I even make an ambitious plan of a solo trip to France to watch the French Open which never materializes!
- TH gets limited days; single entry visa. that too on a 2nd attempt
- These Visas are granted by the French Embassy
- I gloat and rub it in every chance I get 🙂
- We enjoy Europe – 3 lovely destinations and are back in 10 days
- So my 80 days remain unconsumed
- In Feb 2018 we plan another Europe trip. The dates are in March 2018
- 5 of us are traveling so there is little room for dates re-jig plus we have squeezed a 11 days trip in 5 days leave by factoring some weekends and some company floating holidays. So we cannot afford to change the travel dates
- All of us get visas stamped seamlessly this time through the German embassy
- So far so good
- And then lo & behold!
- My 2018 visa is stamped from 2 days AFTER we are supposed to start our travel
- And then it dawns on us that 2017 visa which is valid till 24th March 2018 is also considered effective for initial 2 days of my travel
- Many emails fly around to the French and German Embassies and their email confirmations are received that I will travel on 2 visas
- MIL, FIL, BIL (in-laws) all cross the check in counters without a wrinkle on their face
- TH can also do that but he; being married to Murphy’s favourite; is compelled to stand by my side
- The Airline staff has directions to check all the visas before they issue the boarding pass
- One supremely bright girl is handling my check-in and is dumb-struck by the visa
- She can’t wrap her head around the fact that I have 2 continuing visas and I am flying out on one and coming back on another
- She won’t let me touch my own passport to show her the existence of 2 visas
- She is mindlessly flipping through the pages of my precious passport
- Finally I and TH lose it and ask her to speak up. And the shining star THENNN tells us that she can’t process my check-in till her senior clears it
- Finally after 10 odd minutes of flipping through my visa and making me look like an illegal immigrant to the entire queue behind me, her senior apparates and starts the same mindless exercise of flipping through the passport
- Now I snatch my PP from his hands and take control of my own check-in
- I am even prepared to do the math on a piece of paper so that he understands the complex nature of 2 visas
- I explain 2017 visa in detail, including the fact that I only consumed 10 days out of allowed 90. So I have 80 days as balance on that visa and that’s a multi entry visa
- So I will use 2 days out of those 80 for this trip
- And then the fresh visa of 2018 of which I will use 9 days out of 10
- He is either convinced or bored since I have repeated the story 3 times
- After spending approx. 30mins at the check-in counter explaining the intriguing story of my Visa we march to the immigration counters
- And I leave it to your imagination to fathom what happened next 🙂
- By now am dreading the immigration clearance in the EU
- Primary reasons being, I have French embassy issued visa for initial 2 days while rest of the trip is on the visa issued by the German embassy. I am neither entering nor exiting via France. My entry point is Belgium with onward destination being Poland 🙂
- For the entire flight duration I have carefully prepared arguments for my case and also translated the same in French since Belgium would be more amenable to a French speaking nymph
- The whole family is prepared to witness another round of exaggerated hand gestures and dates, duration and validity babble
- Now Murphy seems to have taken a toilet break. Because immigration while entering Europe is a breeze 😀
- I gloat again and happily trot around Europe thinking the worst is behind me
- But Murphy doesn’t have dysentery so he is back with a bang by the time I wind up my trip in Germany
- I am standing before the immigration officer to fly out of EU zone and he (a jovial fellow) looks at my passport, looks at me, shakes his head and makes funny noises
- By now my carefully prepared facts of the case, arguments and evidentiary emails have long deserted my brain and am equally clueless about why it’s taking so long for him to stamp me out of Eurozone
- He finally asks “when did you enter?” Now, in all honesty am extremely bad at answering in concrete numbers/dates/days. I invariably answer with qualifiers like “about, approximately, around” which irritates TH especially around immigration counters
- So when the officer asked when did you enter, I answered “about 3 days back”; which is when I had entered Germany 🙂
- Now it’s his turn to get frustrated and impatiently show me the immigration stamp of date of entry into Eurozone
- And then it dawns on me that he expects me to recite the whole story of my 2 visas
- Like a kid in elocution competition I recite the whole thing and he is smiling from ear to ear at the sheer uniqueness of my tricky situation
- He seems convinced and stamps my passport with great enthusiasm and exclaims that it is the 1st time that he has witnessed such a case! All his colleagues have also gathered to see the spectacle of my immigration and they all shake their heads in sympathy and wave me goodbye…
Thankfully no-one is bothered about my visas when I touch down in India at an ungodly hour.
Now its TH’s turn to gloat and say it’s better to get Cinderella visas 🙂