Today’s hurdle in getting Ross off to Woodstock School is getting her student visa. I have had several occasions to get visas for India at the Indian Consulate in Milan, most recently two years ago when Ross and I travelled to India together.
It wasn’t easy that time. We were both travelling on US passports, and, as I already knew, the Indian consulate, in order to give a visa to a non-Italian national at a consulate in Italy, wanted proof of residence. This is usually easy to get: you go to your local Ufficio d’Anagrafe, where you are registered as a resident of your comune (municipality), and they print out something saying you’re a resident, with your home address and the date at which your residency began.
The hitch was that at that time we had been in Lecco for only two years, so our residence forms showed “resident in Lecco since 2003,” and the Indian consulate wanted proof that we had been in Italy for at least three years (what were we supposed to do if we had just moved to Italy…?). I happened to still have copies of some very old residency forms from Milan for myself (in Italy, keep copies of every official form that has ever passed through your hands – you never know), but had no such thing for Ross.
I pointed out to the Indian consulate employee that, as my daughter, Ross was likely to have been living with me in Italy for the last 15 years, but the lady insisted on documentary evidence.
Fortunately, Milan’s main Ufficio d’Anagrafe is right next door to the Indian Consulate. I ran over there, stood in line for 20 minutes, paid 13 euros for a “historical” certificate of residence showing that Ross had been resident in Milan since 1991, ran back to the consulate with that, and they accepted it.
This time around, I wasn’t too sure what they would require to issue a student visa to a US citizen resident in Italy, besides the official letters from Woodstock School and the SAGE Program showing her as a “bona fide student”. I checked the Indian Embassy website, and could not find much except a new form to be filled in by non-Italian nationals which will then get faxed… where? – for a fee, too. The site also had no information about the hours of the Milan consulate – I could swear this info used to be there, but can’t find it now.
I wanted Ross to suffer through this process with me (and I wasn’t sure whether they might want to see her face), so I insisted that she accompany me on the visa expedition. The earliest we could do it was today, now that school has ended (she couldn’t have applied much earlier anyway, as the student visa is only good for one year and she will not graduate from Woodstock until May 30th, 2008).
So we got up bright and early this morning to come to Milan, picked up some cash to pay for the visa, and had coffee and brioche at a bar near via Larga. Swung into the side street where the consulate entrance is located, and saw the usual line of (clearly Indian) people. Then the man at the door told us that for visas we had to go someplace completely new. (Would it not have been useful to put this information on the website…?)
We fell in with an Italian in the same situation, and shared a taxi to the new location, via Marostica 34. Along the way we talked about his reasons for being in India: he lives at Auroville, and told us a lot about that. Sounds interesting; I’ll have to look into it more closely.
The new Indian Visa Outsourcing Center (phone 02 48701173) is very posh compared with the old consular office, with rows of seating, air conditioning, and even numbers to take (though I’m not sure how far these were actually being observed). The service truly is outsourced, to Italians. (I will refrain from pointing out the humor in this.)
Of course (story of my life), we’re a special case. The man at the window had never before had to do a student visa for a non-Italian national, and wanted to call the consulate for instructions. So he asked us to wait until “after 11” when they could call and figure out what to do with us.
later – We were called back to the window a few minutes after 11, the senior man of the agency (called Nando) looked at the forms and said they could be submitted as-is. He didn’t seem to think it would be any big deal, which relaxed me quite a bit. The visa might be ready as early as next Wednesday, otherwise I’ll pick it up when I return from the UK the following week. It cost 120 euros – Americans pay more than anyone else in the world for visas to India, apparently in a spirit of reciprocity for the amount Indians have to pay to get visas to the US. (Plus there was the fee for the mysterious fax.)
I’m still a bit nervous that something will go wrong – when it comes to Indian visas, I’m never happy until I have the damn thing in my hand. But I think it’ll be okay.
Ross, now that the Italian school year is over, is finally able to relax enough to get excited about this adventure she has chosen. And that makes up for all the hassle and stress I’m going through to make it happen for her.
Jun 20 – Visa in hand!