Sunday, October 16, 2011

The 281st good thing about Lagos: helpful people around the embassies

Visas are always a frustrating issue for expatriates in Nigeria.  I don't know how many pages of my passport are taken up with Nigerian visas, but I know it's plenty.  Getting a multiple entry visa that lasts a year is like the Holy Grail.   Often there are issues with expatriate quotas and work permits and when our visa expires, we are only allowed a short-term, and sometimes even just a single entry visa.  In the month I've been back, the guy who handles this with the company has had our passports and he's been supposed to be getting us new Nigerian visas, as last time we just got single entry visas.  He still hadn't gotten them, but we had to ask him to give us our passports back.  We are looking forward to a trip to India in a couple of weeks and we needed to get our Indian visas, which takes a week.  Our apartment is right next to the Indian High Commission, where they issue the visas, so it was an easy walk over there one morning this week.  I had my application forms completed, with passport pictures attached.  As I walked up to get in line, I was approached by several Nigerians asking if I needed passport photos.  "No, I have them," I told them.  They then asked me if I had my yellow card showing my immunizations.  I hadn't known this was needed, as it wasn't listed on the application -- and I'm not sure it was, though most Nigerians waiting had theirs in hand.  The guys held out a completed yellow card ready for purchase, with immunizations already stamped.  I told them I would just walk home and get my accurate yellow card, and my neighbors in line agreed to hold my spot for me.  When I returned, the helpful Nigerians asked if they could help provide me with a copy of an airline itinerary or hotel reservation.  Luckily, I had those already in hand.  But it's interesting to know that they could provide any documentation necessary right on the spot for travellers trying to get a visa!  Maybe they could help our company visa guy, who will have to get us new Nigerian visas in a week after we get our passports back from the Indian High Commission, something he wasn't able to do in the past month.  I'm afraid it's going to be a nail biter, getting our passports back in time...

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