Getting A Visa

If you are looking for a little slice of India in Birmingham, I can tell you when to look. 1st Floor, 20 Augusta St., Jewellery Qtr..

The place I am referring to is the Consulate General of India, a building that provides a gulf of a dichotomy; between what it sounds like it should be, and what it actually is.

Being that I’m travelling in just over six weeks, I decided that getting my visa sorted is a pretty high priority. The Consulate website is fairly thorough, but you can’t ask those little niggling questions, and all my attempts on the phone have failed to yield a answer, I mean, no one ever picks up. It gave the impression of being a one-person show, not too dissimilar to the Thai Embassy near New Street.

How wrong I was. I arrived at about 11am, and quickly located the rather sparse ground floor of the Consulate. From the outside it’s a small, ex-industrial office and the large empty ground floor gave the impression that even this was too big for the task. I was directed up a small stairwell and at this point was surprised to find myself pushing my way up an ever-thicker channel of people. At the top of the stairs is a short corridor leading up to an airport-style body scanner (which was making a lot of noise as people passed in and out, but no one seems to be bothered). On the other side of the scanner must have been 200 to 300 people bunched outside the four tiny post office windows, and the one man who appeared to be directing the crowds wasn’t having much success in forming the hordes into an orderly queue.

Had he not have been making a beeline for the door as I came in, I wouldn’t have heard him tell me that there were no more visas to be issued today. They’d met their daily quota. I’m quite glad I didn’t have to queue for two hours to find that out.

The closest thing it equates to from memory was a coach station in Malaysia. Chaotic, and exciting. If my departure was less than four weeks away, I would be seriously worried by now, especially at the prospect of having to secure my visa queue number by arriving “between 6.30 and 7.30am” and not mid-morning as I have discovered. Thankfully they run a 4-week postal application. I think I’ll be taking that option.