Seychelles – Visa on Arrival with Indian Passport

Wife and I landed at Mahe Airport in The Seychelles last month. Had to fill out an immigration form and a health declaration. The immigration officer asked us for our return tickets. Then stamped a permit on the passport and let us through. No trouble at all and super easy. The permit was set to expire on our date of departure as per the ticket – no grace period of any sort there.

There is no excuse to not go to Seychelles. No visa and its only a 5 hour direct flight from Mumbai. The photos below should inspire you further!

 
Cat Cocos Jetty - Praslin Island, Seychelles

Granite Boulders - Anse Georgette, Seychelles

More Anse Georgette, Seychelles

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UAE Visa & “OK To Board” – with Etihad for Abu Dhabi Trasit

We have a 14 hour transit coming up in Abu Dhabi, flying Etihad. That’s enough time to step out of the airport, see the town and probably even see a couple of other towns!

It was fairly straight forward to apply for the transit visa:

  1. Went to: https://www.ttsuaevisas.com/
  2. Started an individual online application for myself and a separate one for my wife
  3. Straightforward process – had to upload a bunch of documents in JPEG form only, including:
    1. Previous UAE visas
    2. Previous Schengen / USA / UK visas
    3. Air Tickets
    4. Hotel Bookings
    5. Passport Copies
  4. Only complication was the Hotel Bookings. Since we only have 14 hours during the day (not an overnight stop), we didn’t book any hotels. The system wouldn’t accept the transit visa application without a hotel booking. So I wrote a letter explaining why I don’t have a hotel booking and uploaded that in place of the hotel booking.
  5. Visa was processed and arrived via email in 2 working days.

One thing I didn’t know as it was not mentioned in any official communication – we need Etihad to do an “OK to Board” endorsement on our booking PNR. Luckily our travel agent (The Travel Partner) knew about this and told us on time. Process was simple – I sent an email to OTBUAEVisa@etihad.ae with visa and ticket copies for both me and my wife. They responded within 24 hours and did the OTB (OK to Board) as they call it.

Russian Visa Shakedown

Ran into the following requirement of the Russian Embassy when trying to apply for a tourist visa in New Delhi:

The original tourist/hotel voucher issued by a Russian tourist agency/hotel, which is registered with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs  (MFA) of the Russian Federation containing the necessary data of a traveler (name, date of birth, etc.), period of stay (date of entry and departure), name of receiving Russian travel agency, list of services paid for (transportation, accommodation, sightseeing, etc.), signed by a representative of the tourist agency, stamped with the agency’s seal and bearing an official MFA reference number. Faxed and scanned copies are not accepted.

I consulted my trusted travel agent on this and learned that the voucher has to come from a registered travel agency in Russia. And these travel agencies demand INR 20,000 (USD 300 approx.) for issuing a letter for one traveller.

Ain’t nothing but an old fashioned shake-down. Needless to say, Russia trip postponed till their Ministry of Foreign Affairs becomes more tourist friendly.

Update: I wrote to 2 separate hotels (in Moscow and St. Petersburg). Both confirmed that they will send me the required letters in Scan copy via email. But there are some further complications:

  • The local visa application centre here in Delhi refuses to accept scan copies – their website clearly says that the original must be couriered or mailed – impossible to predict how long that will take.
  • The hotel gives the letter for free, but says that they will charge 2000-3500 roubles if I take the letter but then cancel my hotel reservation.

In short – it is way too complicated and potentially expensive for a short casual visit. Russia visit cancelled for now.

Police Verification Part 2 – LIU Check

About a week after the first part of the police verification was complete (click for previous post), my landline rang. The local intelligence unit (LIU) was calling. They asked me to come to their office – didn’t ask to bring any specific documents. The person had asked me to come on Saturday morning – but he wasn’t there when I reached.

Anyway, he spoke quite nicely to me on the phone, and obliged me by coming to my house on Sunday morning. He asked the following questions (can’t remember every question):

  • What do you do?
  • More probing questions about my work
  • Are you sure you don’t do service in Delhi and actually live there? (as opposed to my home town where this check was taking place)
  • How long have you lived at this address?
  • Other general questions

He also asked to look at the following documents:

  • Old passport
  • Additional address proof – he demanded a voter ID card, but I showed him a gas connection document – which was fine.
  • Photograph

He took my signature on a number of documents, and finally took a bribe (Rs. 1000) and left. I haven’t heard any further – so I assume all is well, and the police verification is complete.

Finally some relief with the Passport Application – 5th visit.

Today was my 5th visit to the Ghaziabad PSK since last July. They finally accepted my application. But I’m keeping my fingers crossed till I actually have the new passport in my hands.

The day was positive – but not without some drama. In my old passport, my father’s name was spelt “Rajeev”. But his name is actually spelt “Rajiv” in all other documents, including in the verification certificate (Annexure F) that I had got made for my passport application. I had to spend some time convincing the head of the passport centre that it is a minor spelling difference. Finally she agreed and let me use the verification certificate with “Rajiv” (though she refused to let me update the spelling in the new passport).

Let’s hope this comes through.

For those looking for guidance on passport application matters, please refer to a series of posts by me (in chronological order). This should give you a fair idea of what to expect.

1. https://insertindian.wordpress.com/2013/07/26/trouble-renewing-passport-last-passport-was-issued-abroad/
2. http://dharmbhai.blogspot.in/2011/08/passport-tatkal-annexure-f-woes-galore.html
3. https://insertindian.wordpress.com/2013/10/15/passport-application-round-2/
4. https://insertindian.wordpress.com/2013/10/29/passport-application-round-3-failed-again-annexure-f-too-old/
5. https://insertindian.wordpress.com/2014/06/12/passport-woes-continue-the-system-really-needs-some-streamlining/

Passport woes continue – the system really needs some streamlining

Went for the fourth time to the Ghaziabad Passport Seva Kendra (PSK) yesterday. Multiple issues to report.

  1. My wife & I got appointments on different days, even though we booked appointments within a 30-second timeframe.
  2. I tried going into the PSK with my wife on her appointment – but that wasn’t allowed. Fair enough.
  3. The passport website’s document advisor clearly states that a copy of a spouse’s passport is enough address proof. I gave my wife all the following documents, but the PSK folks refused to accept them as valid address proof: My passport’s copy, My bank statement copy, and our marriage certificate. This is clearly in contradiction of what they say on their own website.
  4. On our last visit to the same PSK they had accepted the above documents as proof of address (but had complained about something else, and not accepted our application). They are contradicting what they themselves were willing to accept a few months ago.

Overall I think there’s some scam going on – I just don’t understand what. We even asked them to “recommend” a good passport agent – but they point blank said that applications can’t be made through agents. If any of you have ideas on how to deal with these folks please tell me – I have been struggling now for almost a year!

Shortage of Passport Booklets in India

Looks like there is a shortage of passport booklets in India right now, and there is a large backlog of passport applications. I was thinking of trying to apply for my passport again, but now I think I will wait a few weeks.

Click link below for the news item: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/pune/Short-supply-of-booklets-delays-passport-issuance/articleshow/30420348.cms