Visa Stuck #2 (final)

Riyadh (Image courtesy: Wikipedia)

Riyadh (Image courtesy: Wikipedia)

Finally, I am sitting at the King Khalid International Airport, Riyadh, waiting for my flight back to India. Much relaxed and relieved than I was just about a week ago. The airport has changed significantly since my last visit. Lots of shops inside now.

Anyways, let’s get to the point. This post is in continuation to the one I posted last week. So please do read it before moving ahead with this one.

Visa Stuck #1

So I managed to come out of the Kuwait airport and reached the hotel. It was a great relief indeed. Time to relax! I just made a few calls to inform my family about my safe arrival and went on to sleep. The next morning, I was supposed to submit my Passport for the KSA VISA. The VISA would come either the same day or the following day in the worst case, and we would fly to Riyadh for the presentation. This was almost certain. There was nothing to worry about. I woke up in the evening and went out to eat something. I just couldn’t find any vegetarian food nearby, and was trying to remember when and why I turned a vegetarian!

Next morning, I managed to reach the office in time and submitted the passport for stamping (remember the VISA was approved, I was just supposed to get it stamped). Thanks to our kind partners, I did not have to do any running around and stuff. I just went on to prepare for the presentation along with my colleagues in the partner organization. And that was the only focus. I was to fly to Riyadh the next evening. Before calling it a day, we just checked on the VISA status. It was not stamped that day. A little bit of worry, but nothing major to really think about. The following morning, I packed-up everything so that I could checkout by the afternoon. The only thing I then did was to keep checking on the VISA.

11:00 AM, no news. 12:00 Noon, still no news. 1:00 PM, the last lot of passports were to be released by the embassy. It was getting close now. There was no news even by 2:00 PM. It was a really a high stake presentation. Re-scheduling was hardly an option, just because too many stakeholders were involved. These were really nervous moments. Too many phone calls and email exchanges, but nothing hopeful. By 3:00 PM, I gave up all hopes of getting the VISA and called up the agency in KSA to inform that we would not be able to make it. I called-up around 4:00 PM, only to realize that the working hours there were 7:30 AM to 3:30 PM. So there was no one to pick-up the phone. Although I emailed, but it was too uncomfortable unless I could speak to someone and explain the situation. Finally, somehow, as if miraculously, we were able to speak to our main point-of-contact in the agency, who was kind enough to acknowledge the situation  and managed to push the presentation by a day. This was a big relief indeed, but I was not very comfortable this time, as I had been a day ago. We knew that this was our last chance, and the stakes were just too high.

To cut it short, the next day went *exactly* like the previous day, except for 10 times more anxiety! The result was pretty much the same. No VISA yet. It was frustrating for everyone. Not just for me, but for my colleagues in my organization and our partner organization, who went out of the way to try their best to get the VISA on time. And for the agency of course, where we had to present.

We got another extension this time. And this was the last and final one. It was now pushed to the following week. I don’t really know how I felt. But I was no more that anxious. I guess anxiety had peaked the previous day. And it couldn’t get worse, I supposed. I just stopped thinking about it and went out for a walk along the beach (yes, I was living close to a beach that I had not realized!). And this time, I also found an Indian restaurant, exorbitant by any standards though! But it didn’t matter. I finally got the VISA the following night.

The presentation was to happen the following week now. 5 days to go. Although I was quite comfortable in Kuwait (except for the VISA hassles), I thought it was good to get back to India, relax for a couple of days, and then move straight to Riyadh to present. So I got my tickets booked.

If you thought it was an end to the anxious moments, let me tell you that IT WAS NOT!!! Now what?????

I booked my tickets, packed my bags and was about to checkout. I just wanted to call up my colleagues in the partner organization and thank them for their immense efforts on getting the VISA and their amazing hospitality. And then, I get a piece of information that would just throw me off! The admin team in the partner organization recommended that I travel to Riyadh from Kuwait, to avoid any immigration hassles at the Riyadh airport! This is because the VISA was issued from the KSA embassy in Kuwait and the embassy was told that I would fly from Kuwait. How could this happen to me? What was I supposed to do after booking my last minute tickets at really high prices, which were not even refundable. Hmmmmm…. A VISA is a VISA. Once you have it, you can fly from the moon to that country. It shouldn’t matter. I just went through each and every word in the VISA to see if there is such a clause. I couldn’t find any. How could I? I could only see my name in English. The only other things I recognized were my passport number and the VISA validity. Rest everything was in Arabic! What to do now? I pulled up my old passport and tried to compare the VISAs that were stamped in India. They looked similar. But similar. Not exact. I called up my colleague again to check if there is really a clause in VISA or is it just an apprehension. All of us tend to get a little extra cautious when things go wrong. I came to know it was an apprehension.

Some episodes of “Jailed Abroad” did flash through my mind, but I just stopped thinking and decided to get back. If the presentation was supposed to happen, it will happen. No matter what. If it was not supposed to happen, if won’t happen, even if I am sitting right there, where it is supposed to happen (by the way, this has happened with me a couple of times!).

And then I left for the airport and wrote the first post that I’ve linked above. To cut it short, I was not anxious anymore. I came back to India. Left for Riyadh the following week. Got through immigration. And went ahead to present the following day. And the presentation went on quite well!

Looking back, I can only smile 🙂 It was an interesting experience. Isn’t it? Would you like to have one 😉

Let me go and grab something. I have visited this airport quite often and I know there’s an Indian guy at the food court who can get some vegetarian food for me. A happy ending finally!

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VISA Stuck #1

Kuwait Towers (Image courtesy: Wikimedia Commons)

The Kuwait Towers (Image courtesy: Wikimedia Commons)

Sitting at the Kuwait airport, with 7 hours yet to go for my flight back to India,  I’m just reflecting on how happening the last few days have been.  I should have been in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia waiting for my flight back to India. But here I am. Kind of stuck!

Let me backup a little and give some context. I was supposed to travel to Riyadh for a presentation. A very important one! Instead of a simple case of just traveling to Riyadh and getting done with the presentation,  circumstances forced me to make it little complex and adventurous.  But complex by design. Not by chance. With the amount of time I had to travel, it would have been very difficult to get a VISA for KSA. So instead,  I opted for a rather complex but a lot more certain alternative.  I decided to travel to Kuwait and get my Saudi VISA stamped in Kuwait. I won’t get into the details.  But you have to trust me that you’d have done the same, considering the options I had at hand.

I get the Kuwait VISA on time.  And I get my Saudi VISA approved. Now I just had to reach Kuwait,  submit my passport at the embassy of KSA there ( or here rather) and get the familiar sticker stamped. So far so good. I head off to take the flight to Kuwait,  the country with one of the most powerful currencies on earth (or THE most). And the build up to a series of nervous moments starts to take place. I’m told at the check-in counter that I can’t board as the airline has not received an ‘ok-to-board’ message from the VISA sponsor in Kuwait. What is that supposed to mean?  Nevertheless,  I manage to convince them that it is okay for me to board.  So they allowed me to do so at my own risk.  To my dear friends who ever travel on a social visit VISA to Kuwait, please inform your VISA sponsor (which will most likely be a hotel,  as in my case) to explicitly inform the airline in Kuwait that it is okay to board.  I don’t understand why this pain is needed.  But there must be a reason that I’m not aware of.

Alright.  So let’s reach Kuwait.  I land up there in time.  And move to a very cramped immigration area. There was hardly any space to stand.  Little did I know that in another half an hour, I’ll have the entire area for me to play football! Upon reaching in Kuwait, I was first supposed to collect the original copy of my VISA (Kuwait) and then proceed to one of the immigration counters. My apprehensions turned true when I came to know that the airport had not received the original VISA (the sponsor has to submit the original VISA at the airport). While I was trying to call the hotel to inquire about my VISA, the entire immigration area got cleared.  I was the only person there for the next hour or so.  It was due to the kind follow up of a gentleman from our partner organisation that I finally got my VISA and was able to come out of the airport.

And this was just the beginning!

Stay tuned to know what happened next.  I need to go and grab something to drink! And yes, coke is cheaper than water here 🙂

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