Thursday, September 1, 2011

Epic Fail: Nepal Visa Woes, Part 2

"The word adventure has gotten overused. For me, when everything goes wrong, that's when adventure starts." --Yvon Chouinard

At the end of Part 1, my visa application was held up at the Home Ministry while my tourist visa allowing me to stay in the country remained valid for just ten more days.

Held up, indeed.

Apparently, my application was lethally flawed. A Home Minister bureaucrat, a man I grew to deeply loathe, informed me of all the ways that my college and I had failed to follow proper application procedures (nevermind that this was the very first time anyone informed me of these rules and procedures, no matter how many times I had asked). A major sticking point was that I had already extended my tourist visa and that my application should have been initiated before that extension. That I actually had initiated the application before my extension, but it was the bureaucratic delay in other departments (I'm looking at you, Ministry of Education) that held me up until now was not persuasive. My application was flawed and for the moment it was being held as rejected. Any attempt to fix my application would be in vain -- it was too late to be initiating a new application, after all, since I had already extended my tourist visa (duh). The Home Ministry's suggestion? Please leave the country and reenter in January 2012 when you can begin your application anew.

So there I was with no visa and ten days to figure out an alternative. Complete and total panic washed over me. Fortunately, I had no time for an actual breakdown -- I could probably find a way to get a student visa, but condensing a process that normally takes four to six weeks into ten days would take immediate action (and probably a miracle). A few phone calls later I had my solution: a local lawyer could file the proper paperwork to get me an emergency extension...for a price.

And this is where things got fun. You didn't think it would be this simple, did you?

Earlier in the summer Claudine had applied for a job open only to applicants with valid visas allowing them to legally work in Nepal (tourist, student, and research visas would not cut it). She applied with the expectation that by the end of July, I would have a working visa and thus she would have one, too, as my dependent spouse.

Two days after learning that my visa application was stalled at the Home Ministry, Claudine got the job. This was the job we had been waiting for -- long-term, meaningful work, solid pay and benefits, potential career advancement. But without the proper visa, no dice. "You do have the appropriate visa, correct?" "Well...we're working on it."

So we set to work, determined to get the visa, secure the job, and live happily ever after. If reason could just win out and my application could be amended and approved, then all would be okay. We pursued every avenue possible. The month of August has been a blur of lawyers, meetings, phone calls, tears, hope, and despair. We attempted to convince the lowest level employees who might be willing to take pity. We called in connections to people who had access to politicians at the very top of the government. I personally called and talked to members of the Constituent Assembly to plead my case. At one point, our fate rested on the question of which politician would be appointed to a certain cabinet post and how long it would take for him to take the oath of office. Three separate times we were told that our visa was all but secured with 90% certainty. Each time, our hopes were dashed.

Claudine's employer remained patient for almost a month but finally had to give her a deadline for procuring the appropriate visa. A last-ditch effort had us hopeful up to that very last day. Alas, this effort, like the others before, fell through. No visa. No job. Epic fail.

So, no, August has not been a good month for us. In retrospect, I can put all kinds of gloss on the situation and see the silver linings of lessons learned, relationships strengthened, etc., but the fact of the matter is that it was awful. Frustrating. Demoralizing. Painful. Sometimes life does not work out in your favor. We fell and we fell very hard. Why sugarcoat that?

August has left us drained, physically and emotionally, but we are dusting ourselves off and standing up again. We have lots to look forward to and be thankful for, visa or no visa, job or no job. We do not regret our decision to move here and as of now we plan to stay (though recent events have seriously questioned our ability and desire to do so). Moving abroad has been many things, but not all of them have been good. That, we have learned, is all part of the adventure.

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