You’ve all heard of the Butterfly Effect, haven’t you? The idea that something small could have big consequences down the line? That the flapping of a butterfly’s wings could create a hurricane? I think Ashton Kutcher once made an educational documentary about the phenomenon. Well, my life for the last 4 weeks has been one great big demonstration for the Butterfly Effect. How several small choices at the end of March and the beginning of April resulted in me, lying prostate on the couch at home in Dublin, crying anxiously, abusing defenceless UK embassy employees on the phone and shaking uncontrollably (well, yes, ok, the shaking is now under control, otherwise, how would I be typing this blog post? But, I assure you there was much shaking just a little while ago).
At the end of March, I submitted, for the 3rd time, an online application to the British Embassy for a youth work visa. I was determined to get it right this time and didn’t want to pay the application fee until I was sure I was going to get all the right documents. I had been waiting, for 2 weeks, for the Commonwealth Bank to send some documents to my Dad in Australia, who was then going to express post them to me in Dublin. However, even though the process was meant to take, at most, a week, Dad still hadn’t received the documents. At this point, Dad and I decided I needed an advocate on the ground in Australia, so he marched into the New Lambton branch with my details and asked the branch manager to issue some documents that corresponded exactly with what the British Embassy required (I sent him the information to take into the bank so they could read it for themselves). Luckily, the branch manager had already spoken to me about the exact same issue, so she agreed to give the documents to Dad.
Dad went back the next day to get the documents, which I think was a Tuesday, intending to express post the documents that afternoon to me, getting to Dublin just before Good Friday. This was essential, as I needed to hand in my application documents the next Tuesday. However, when he went to pick up the documents (with a little gift of Easter eggs to say ‘thank you’), they weren’t ready.
Its just one day, right? Well, yes and no.
Dad got the documents the day after, on the Wednesday and immediately sent them off to me. I checked the mail on Thursday morning and, of course, the documents weren’t there. I checked the available appointments at the UK embassy and found that the next available appointment to hand in my documents (if I didn’t do it on the 6th of April) was the 18th of April. Thinking that was a bit too far away (and cutting it a bit fine with my visa running out), I decided to wait one more day to see if my documents arrived the next day (I’d found out that the mail would be delivered on Good Friday in central Dublin).
Of course, the mail didn’t come on Good Friday and when I checked the appointment times, they had changed from 12 hours previously and the only available one was on the 23rd of April. Even further away. Even more of a risk. But, I didn’t have a choice. I didn’t have my documents and there were not other available appointments. So, I booked myself in. I was still hoping that in the 3 weeks between when I booked my appointment and attended it, that I would get an extension of my Irish visa and I wouldn’t have to leave on the 4th of May.
As we all know, that didn’t occur, so on the 22nd of April, the day before my appointment, I had to make a decision. Did I take a chance and hand in my application? I researched application times for this time of visa online and the website said in the last year applications for this visa had taken 2 – 3 days. I checked to see if there was a way of cancelling the application once it was submitted. There was. I thought about all the effort a multitude of people (not least of all myself) had expended to get all the correct documents at the correct time and the amount of times I had paid money to the UK embassy. If I didn’t get the visa, I had to return home to Australia and apply again from there (as we have discussed previously, not the worst thing in the world, but slightly illogical in its wastage of time, money, airplane fuel etc). I went, f**k it. What’s the worse that can happen?
Well, the worse that can happen happened last night.
I had been waiting patiently for a response from the UK embassy. When they hadn’t replied after 3 days, I started to worry. When they didn’t reply after 5 days, I convinced myself they were going to refuse my application. After 8 days (and 2 days before I needed to leave the country), I realised I had to cancel the application, which I did via fax. No reply. No reply the next day either. I sent the fax again. No reply. I gave the UK embassy until 4pm yesterday to reply and then I was going into panic mode, which would involve ringing anyone I could think of, including the Australian embassy. Luckily, as I was checking the website of the Australian embassy, I realised they only stayed open until 4:30pm, so my deadline was moved forward to 3:30pm. In my state of delayed anxiety, I left it until 3:20pm and realised I couldn’t wait any longer. I called the UK embassy.
And, when I say, I called the UK embassy, I mean that I called the Indian call centre (at least, I think its an Indian call-centre, I can’t find out for certain on their website – giving out that information wouldn’t be a great idea) that is the middle-man between UK visa applicants and the UK embassy. Which would be a brilliant idea for efficiently processing visas as long as ABSOLUTELY NOTHING WENT WRONG EVER. And every single applicant and application WAS ABSOLUTELY PERFECT IN EVERY WAY. Of course, as I have proved, I was not a perfect applicant, nor was my application a perfect one. It was more of a, ‘Hey, let’s throw it at the wall and see what happens’ kind of application. When I rang the Indian call centre that afternoon (for the third time in a week), I explained my situation as calmly as I could and then demanded (calmly) that they give me a phone number for the UK embassy visa section in Dublin so that I could ‘speak to a person’. They informed that they ‘had no numbers’ for the UK embassy and that they communicated with the embassy visa instant messaging. I pointed out (slightly hysterically at this point), that my passport was MY passport and despite the fact that I had willingly given it to the UK embassy, it was the most important document I had and that it was absolutely INSANE that there was no way I could get it back from the UK embassy if I needed it (and I needed it). To her credit, the call-centre lady went to see what she could do and when she came back she said they would instant message my contact details to the UK embassy, ask that they call me urgently and that they would escalate my urgent request for my passport. I wasn’t certain anyone would call me, but I saw this as my only option.
10 minutes late I was speaking to the UK embassy. And they were informing me that my passport was no longer in Dublin, but had to be sent to London for a decision. This was a new process for all visa applicants. Which I OBVIOUSLY was not aware of. The woman asked, ‘were you not informed the process would take 10 – 15 working days when you applied?’ Fair enough, UK embassy woman, I was informed of this, but I was not informed you would be sending my passport out of the country, which I think changes the situation slightly. MAJORLY. So, I’m having a panic attack on the other end of the line and the woman is still asking me if I want to cancel my application, knowing that the earliest I can get it back now is next Tuesday (unless, of course, it happens to be in the mail bag on Friday – today). I end up yelling at her, ‘I don’t know! I don’t know! Fine, cancel it, do whatever you like!’ To which she replied (logically, but not helpfully or sympathetically), ‘Its not what I want, its what you want, there’s no need to yell at me…’ etc. etc. etc. which was all fair enough except for the fact that I was dissolving on the other end of the line. I ended up cancelling the application, got off the phone and immediately attempted to call the immigration bureau in Dublin and request to stay longer in these unusual (and awful) circumstances. I couldn’t get through. Every option and number I selected got me through to a voice recording, and it was 4pm by this point and I was in danger of missing the Australian embassy. So, I hung up and rang the Australian embassy.
They were wonderful. The woman listened very carefully to everything I said, asked pertinent questions, got further details, went through my options, gave her advice and then said she would personally follow up with the immigration bureau the next morning at 8am (it being 4:15pm at that point, she thought she wouldn’t be able to get anyone on the phone that afternoon).
Whilst on the phone to the Australian embassy, the UK embassy rang me to say that they had spoken to Croydon and Croydon thought my passport and application were in the mailbag arriving Friday, but the embassy didn’t know if the post would be delivered in the morning or the afternoon as it changes, apparently. They said they would call me when my application arrived and I could come and pick it up. They also said they couldn’t tell at this stage whether or not my application had been approved, which I didn’t particularly care about by this point.
|This is what bureaucracy and visas will do to you. Found at: http://www.businessinsider.com/ten-things-that-have-freaked-the-market-this-morning-2011-9|
Thinking I had done absolutely everything I could, I lay down on the couch, covered myself up with a blanket and attempted to stop shivering. The Australian embassy then called back at 5pm to say they had gotten on to the immigration bureau and I had permission to stay, but only until my passport returned, which I felt was fair enough.
So. The flight I am booked on to leaves Dublin at 5pm this evening. I am hoping against hope that the UK embassy will ring this morning to say that they have my passport and that I can come and pick it up. Failing that, I hope they call early afternoon to say that it has arrived and I can come and pick it up. But, if everything fails, I at least know that the Irish authorities are aware of my plight (its most definitely a plight) and that I can stay until my passport arrives. Though, I do have to get a letter from the UK embassy stating they have my passport and that I applied for a youth work visa.
I don’t know if the Indian call centre will be able to provide that.
So, fingers crossed I get the passport today!