Getting a visa for Argentina
I have been to Argentina 3 times between 2005 and 2010. The first two times I got the visa from Delhi and it was very straight forward the first time. The second time was not too bad, just seven trips to the consulate and one to a bank in Connaught Place. The third time I got the visa from London and it involved a trip to London from Newcastle and took the whole day.
In 2011, the University of Buenos Aires invited me and I applied for the visa from New York. Nine hours of bus rides later, the visa was refused because speaking at a conference on a tourist visa is not allowed, I was told. Mind you the previous three times this was not the case, as I was speaking at conferences each time This was the first time I had been refused a visa from any country.
This year, 2012, I was invited again. Back to New York on a nine hour to and fro train ride. Visa refused, they need more paperwork.
‘Why are you attending a conference?’
‘I am not, the conference is being organised because I am there’
(serious suspicious frown)
‘OK you will get your visa in three days’
By the time I reached Boston, there was a voice mail. My visa has been denied. More paperwork is needed. You cannot attend a conference on a tourist visa.
I was to leave for Benin, (having got a tourist visa by post for speaking at a conference!) shortly and needed my passport, so I went back to New York the next day, seven hours of to and fro train rides. I had my passport back.
Back in Cambridge, Massachusetts, I attended to the paperwork. Invitations have to be in original, signed by a notary and the notary’s signature verified by a county clerk, whatever that means. Inviting organisations have to prove that they are genuine. Letters, emails and phone calls flowed like rivers. My dreams were full of notary publics being minutely examined by county clerks in cowboy hats.
I had to go to England for a conference. I called the Argentine consulate to explain that I had just one day on which I could return to New York to reapply for the visa with all its intricate paperwork.
‘No problem they said, we will let you know when we have everything and you will get the visa the same day’
A week passed. I heard that all the paperwork had now been completed. I emailed the consulate to ask if I should come to New York. No reply. I emailed again. No reply. And again, no reply.
The day after returning to the US from England, I left on the 4 hour journey to New York from Boston. The now familiar consulate was crowded with people being refused visas. I had my passport and the filled in form, since all other papers had been sent directly to the consulate. After a half hour wait a man appeared.
‘This is an incomplete application, you have no papers and anyway you can’t attend a conference on a tourist visa’
‘This is a reapplication, sir, all the papers are with you already’
‘You had applied before!!’ (deep suspicion)
‘The consul knows all about it’
Another half an hour, the man reappeared to say ‘I am working on it, don’t worry’
Another half an hour.
‘All your papers are In order’, he said accusingly.
‘Please collect your visa after two working days’
‘I am supposed to leave tomorrow! The consul knows this for a month’
‘This is a problem, wait’
Half an hour.
‘You have to pay $100’, I pulled out my purse.
‘We do not take cash, cards or cheques, only money orders’
I rushed off on a two mile walk to the post office and got a money order. Another two miles later, I was back.
‘Come back at 4 O’clock to collect your visa’
I got down to some serious drinking while explaining self organised learning to a pub full of driniking security guards. Hours passed. I marched purposefully, if a little unsteadily, holding Amartya Sen's 'The Idea of Justice' like a shield in front of me.
At four, a beaming gentleman appeared with my passport.
‘Your visa’, he said, ‘enjoy Argentina’