Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Timeline, Part Do (Two)

What happened following timeline part ek (one) is much less like a clean timeline because many people are involved in the process in varying capacities right now.

I have been working with Amar Dutta, who heads the development team in New Delhi, to get my itinerary complete. Just last week, Amar sent the final version to Ranjani Sridhar, who is the HR Director of Pearson, India.

Ranjani has been working on finding me a place to stay and has also drafted an invitation letter, one part of the materials I'll need for my visa application. Ranjani popped this in the mail yesterday, so I'll hopefully receive it by the end of this week, depending on how long the courier takes to get it half-way across the world.

Back in the states, I have been working on assembling all the necessary elements for my visa application. I filled out an online application that asked for my dates of travel, passport number, my address and my parents' names. The print out was just two pages long; not that detailed considering the kinds of questions a giant bureaucracy could inflict.

I got some new passport photos taken because I have to send two of them along with my visa application.

I got some more shots (and I'll be getting even more tomorrow) because, to my dismay, many of the necessary immunizations are series of shots.

I've been taking my oral typhoid vaccination pill every other day for eight days with a glass of cold water. It was fun to watch the pharmacists at Hy-Vee shrug their shoulders and wonder out loud if they had it in stock when I got that prescription filled.

I'm working on a list of things to pack with the help of people who have been/are there and the recommendations from my guidebooks. This list is getting larger than my suitcase so I have a feeling I'll need to downsize my necessities.

And the human resources department here has written my "sponsor letter"--another tidbit I need for the visa application. This letter needs to explain my reason for visiting, outline my predicted whereabouts and guaranty payment of "my maintenance expenses." I found that last part just a bit odd. Is this a paternalistic urge to ensure they don't have a homeless American roaming their streets? Why would the visa people care?

The question of the letters and what exactly needs to be in my visa application is the most confusing thing I've encountered so far. The Consulate General of India website (which is where I began by filling the online application) clearly lists eleven steps to take when applying for the visa. The invitation letter is not included in this list, but I kept hearing from Ranjani and others that this letter is necessary. Finally, I called the Consulate, and they told me that I need two letters: one from the organization sponsoring my trip, the other from the organization who will be hosting my visit.

Even though this contradicts their website, they will be receiving two letters from me, along with my application, my consular fee, my itinerary and anything else I can think of to shove into the Fed Ex package. I am going the overkill route as I figure it's better to have too much information than not enough. I'll let you know how this approach works out.

Since I have to have my visa ready before it's recommended that I buy any non-refundable airline tickets, I really hope to have everything ready to submit by next week.

The website claims that visa applications only take five days to process. I hope they're right on that count!

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