Our marriage - the ups and downs (Indian + Portuguese couple)

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#1 May 8th, 2013, 08:51
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  • ashray is offline
#1
Hey guys

I'm a long long time lurker of indiamike and finally decided to sign up to share my horrible experience with the Indian consulate in San Francisco. I just want folks to be aware of all the pitfalls and bonuses that marriage brings, especially for international couples.

So me and my sweetheart had a religious wedding in New Delhi, India on 28th Feb. (arya samaj) We tried and tried to get this marriage registered but couldn't (tons of documentation issues including a requirement for a freshly issued birth certificate for me - I was born in Agra, UP - do the Math :P).

Now, since we're travel journalists, and we were coming to the US, we decided, hey! Lets' get married in Vegas as it's easy - in terms of documentation. The marriage is legal, recognized internationally, etc. etc.

What wasn't expected was that our wonderful Indian consulate in San Francisco would be so utterly incompetent at dealing with my wife's entry (X) visa for India. Their rules do say that you can apply under special circumstances here, even while being non-residents, BUT, they refuse to acknowledge the fact. (it's there in the visa application guidelines - but they keep harping on about residence proof in California)

Not only that, but Travisa, the agency that handles their visas, refused to answer our emails over a month ago while we were planning all this.

Right now, we're in the middle of our visa woes and tomorrow we're heading to the consulate to try and talk to them again.

Kinda sad that Indian citizens can't rely on their consulate for even this kind of stuff. We've already paid $156 (non refundable) and they're being adamant about the residency requirement even though their website clearly mentions an exception.

Oh well, another story for the indiamike wall
Last edited by Forum Leader; May 10th, 2013 at 17:56..
#2 May 8th, 2013, 14:59
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I don't understand the fuss - You got married through an Indian ceremony and didn't do any research on the papers required. Even if you had married an Indian, you would have needed the required documentation and an international marriage simply takes a few extra papers but nothing unreasonable. I got married in India myself and we had spent four months just doing prep research to be sure we know what we're doing. It takes time and a bit of patience that's all...

And yes, it is true, you can't get a visa from an embassy without local residence in that country. That's the same almost everywhere so why complain about an embassy? You bank on a special exception that you define yourself; how about you leave that to the embassy to decide? I think it makes sense for her to go to Portugal and apply for the x visa and that's how it works.

This is not useful for anyone but solely shows that it's your fault and you're trying to pass the bucket.
============================== =====

josh, jugaad aur lage raho
#3 May 8th, 2013, 23:29
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Our case wasn't that straightforward since I required to present a copy of my birth certificate - which doesn't currently have my name on it. It's not true that we didn't do our research - that is an assumption that you're making here. We were fully aware of what's required.

As for embassy requirements, the visa guidelines clearly state that a visa CAN be granted here to tourists. This is not a new thing for embassies anywhere. Embassies exist to help their citizens. You CAN get a visa from an embassy without local residence, it happens all the time. We're travel journalists - so we happen to know a thing or two about that. If you want to see examples of that, just look through our site. Residency requirements for visas are almost always designed only to reduce workload on the consulate. They are discretionary rules.

I don't think it makes sense to go to Portugal, it would be prohibitively expensive (close to $5000 in costs). This is a case of a consulate refusing to help us. That's really all there is to it.

Maybe it's not helpful to you, but it would be helpful to someone else who may be thinking of applying for an X visa here, assuming that the consulate will help it's citizens.
#4 May 9th, 2013, 00:20
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#4
You can easily get a tourist visa but that was not your request, you want an X visa and such requests are best served in India or home country. Try getting an Indian employment visa at an Indian embassy in a country where you're not a resident, same problem.

Even if embassies are supposed to exist to help their citzens - well, she is not an Indian citizen so they're not helping her; case closed. It's not their fault you can't afford to fly to Portugal.
#5 May 9th, 2013, 00:39
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#5
What's the difference between giving a tourist visa and an X visa ?

And by marriage to me, she is a PIO. So that does give her some rights. This may not be one of them, but the consulate definitely can assist us if they choose to do so.
#6 May 9th, 2013, 01:40
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#6
Quote:
Originally Posted by ashray View Post What's the difference between giving a tourist visa and an X visa ?

And by marriage to me, she is a PIO. So that does give her some rights. This may not be one of them, but the consulate definitely can assist us if they choose to do so.
Unfortunatelly she is not PIO yet. You have to be married for one year till she can get PIO card ( at least this is in my case - I am as well EU citizen married to Indian).

I would suggest you going to India on tourist visa if consulate makes you a problems. In India you can convert the visa to Entry X visa. I am not sure if your marriage was legalized in India but if it was not you unfortunatelly must make your indian marriage certifikate first then. And if you are going there just to visit India (for less than 180 days), just ask for tourist visa. Having Entry X visa brings other headaches like requirement of registration. So if you are just going to India for a short visit, leave Entry X visa and ask for tourist visa. Otherwise there is not much difference between Entry X visa and tourist visa. Entry X visa just costs more and you can stay in India longer and have multiple entries. But otherwise you cannot do anything else on them than beeing a tourist or a housewife

I am not sure but I heard that some people have problems getting visas to India as they are journalist. But this I only heard.
#7 May 9th, 2013, 02:35
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#7
Quote:
Originally Posted by ashray View Post So me and my sweetheart had a religious wedding in New Delhi, India on 28th Feb. (arya samaj) We tried and tried to get this marriage registered but couldn't (tons of documentation issues including a requirement for a freshly issued birth certificate for me - I was born in Agra, UP - do the Math :P).

Now, since we're travel journalists, and we were coming to the US, we decided, hey! Lets' get married in Vegas as it's easy - in terms of documentation. The marriage is legal, recognized internationally, etc. etc.

What wasn't expected was that our wonderful Indian consulate in San Francisco would be so utterly incompetent at dealing with my wife's entry (X) visa for India. Their rules do say that you can apply under special circumstances here, even while being non-residents, BUT, they refuse to acknowledge the fact. (it's there in the visa application guidelines - but they keep harping on about residence proof in California)
Let me undertstand this -
  • You are traveling journalists; One from India, and other from Portugal. ?
  • You got married in New Delhi, India; under Arya Samaj and could not get marriage registered ? Right ?
  • You have a paper, that claims it's your birth certificate, but without your name in it ? Correct ?
  • You got married in Vegas, and went to VFS to get an X visa for your spouse ? Correct ?
  • VFS SFO, and Indian Consulate, SFO turned her down, because of residency ? and/or being in the US on a ??? you on B1/B2 Visa or did she came under VWF ?

If you were a long time lurker on IM, you should have sounded out the advice. Indian Consulate in SFO, does march to its own drummer; you cannot do anything much about it While a Vegas walk-in marriage is legit, and acceptable - It has through the decades been the butt of jokes, and innuendo laden.

You could fly to Mexico City/DF (no guarantee though, but a smaller and friendly place) *but* you would have to get the Vegas certificate notarized.

Your spouse is in a pickle. Let us know how things progress in SFO land.
#8 May 9th, 2013, 07:37
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@kopretina - She is technically a PIO. We in India don't like to think our laws through so while she cannot get a PIO card for a year, by virtue of marriage, she is already a PIO. Of course the plot thickens if we want to discuss whether her PIO status is only valid if we register our marriage in India but I'd rather not even think about that at the moment! (we do intend to register it in India when we can, though) :O

@nycank - Your assessment is correct. We faced a lot of documentation issues because of my birth certificate (argh!) so we decided to get married in Vegas. We could've also gotten married in California but then our marriage certificate would've taken 4-6 weeks to be ready and would've delayed our trip and visa process. We could've waited for my birth certificate to get fixed but that would've taken 2-3 months and by then Zara's tourist visa would've expired and since we still would not have been married that situation where the FRRO 'lets you stay for a bit' would not have applied to us.

You are 100% right when you say that the SFO consulate marches to it's own drum beat. I did know that from the awesome indiamike forums and this is exactly why I tried getting in touch with them in early April to see if this could be okay. Unfortunately Travisa (the VFS style absolute JOKE of a visa service) did not reply to our emails and refused to answer the phone. They replied to our first email saying "If you're a tourist you can apply but you must have residence proof". When I replied to them with our complete situation and of course said that a tourist cannot have residence proof, they stopped replying to my emails. I sent them two follow up emails but they still wouldn't reply.

We couldn't get anyone at the consulate either. Believe me, we tried. Even here in SFO, standing across the counter from the Travisa folks, they refused to give us contact details of anyone at the consulate. Surely there must be some protocol where an Indian citizen should have access to the right person at their consulate ?!

Because of no info from them, and the fact that the rules DO say that under special circumstances, you can apply for a visa here - we showed up. The Travisa people were quite unhelpful and today we finally landed up at the consulate. The visa officer refused to meet us but I have been in touch with the Consul General over email. I have explained the whole situation to him and he has said that he does not see this as a special circumstance.

However, I have also made a very strong note of Travisa's absolutely incompetent behavior and am hoping that based on that he decides to help us out. We'll hopefully know by tomorrow.

Out of desperation last night I sat down to make some calculations. Spending 14 days in SFO to wait for our visa to get processed will be the same cost as us transiting airside in India and flying to Thailand (when we return), spending 9 days there and paying for a new entry visa. It sounds crazy but I am in a situation where my wife cannot enter my country with me I find it really sad that our consulate wouldn't help us given the situation especially considering that it's a LITTLE BIT their fault (or their chosen outsourcing agency's) that we are here to begin with.

On another note, we are actually heading to Portugal later in the year and we went to the Portuguese consulate in SFO to get my Schengen visa. Took 24 hours and was granted with no documents required. They too have a rule for residency but they waive it for spouses of EU nationals. Atleast, that's not a problem.

Regarding applying for a tourist visa for my wife. I can see how that may be easier but I'm not sure if that's legal considering a lot of websites (of consulates) say that spouses *must* apply for X visas.
#9 May 9th, 2013, 07:40
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Oh sorry, I missed those question marks there. I am on a B1/B2 and she's here on a visa waiver. But yes, that is the reason they refused to process her X visa. Also, our Vegas certificate is notarized and apostilled, we made sure (again thanks to indiamike) that it would be internationally accepted. Also, the consulate of Portugal stamped it as a legal document as well - so I think it's good to go.
#10 May 9th, 2013, 09:27
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#10
In some circumstances letters are far more effective than email. Any mention of journalism will be poison..
#11 May 9th, 2013, 09:36
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#11
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Originally Posted by ashray View Post Because of no info from them, and the fact that the rules DO say that under special circumstances, you can apply for a visa here - we showed up.
I don't see anything special in your circumstance. I would consider a special circumstance as one which could not have been avoided and happened inadvertently. Yours was a planned thing. No way will it fit any definition of a special circumstance.
#12 May 9th, 2013, 11:18
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Originally Posted by bombayboy View Post I don't see anything special in your circumstance. I would consider a special circumstance as one which could not have been avoided and happened inadvertently. Yours was a planned thing. No way will it fit any definition of a special circumstance.
Well, we did have other unfortunate personal events that left us with very few alternatives (none that we could think of, but let's just say very few since there may have been some). I have shared those in private with the consul, let's see what he decides tomorrow.

But either way, we tried through multiple channels, phone, email to travisa and even directly trying to phone and email the consulate to see if this was okay with them. To which, we received no response - that's quite unfair.

Right now, we've paid $156 for the visa only for them to refuse to even process it - when they had all the details with them prior to our application and could've easily said no, because this $156 is also non refundable, not to mention the expense of coming here and spending all these days here.

What's more, when I visited Travisa on the evening of our application to check our visa status, I saw a note from the Travisa guy to the consul officer saying: "Sir, I told these people, they have no residence proof, but they are insisting. I need an answer from you by evening". There was no mention of our actual situation in his note.

It's pretty obvious that Travisa's presentation of our case has been disingenous. The manager at Travisa even mocked our wedding saying "What do you think ? You can just get married in Vegas and now decide to go to India ?". He basically compared our wedding to one of those that come in the movies, ordinarily, I'd think it was funny but he was completely aware of our entire situation while he was saying these things to us - and still refusing to share any contact information for the consulate with us.

However, at this stage we do not have many options. I've shared in excruciating detail our personal reasons (ones that I have not mentioned here) for failing to register our marriage in India. Or basically reasons that caused delays and eventually left us with a reduced amount of time to process the paperwork that was necessary.

Now it's up to him.
#13 May 9th, 2013, 11:25
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Oh and also when I mentioned to the Travisa manager - "Embassies exist to help their citizens, no ?" He laughed, actually laughed out loud. Like "Yeah, right". Sort of gave me an insight into how things are run in SFO
#14 May 9th, 2013, 12:43
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#14
[QUOTE=ashray;1585971]@kopretina - She is technically a PIO. We in India don't like to think our laws through so while she cannot get a PIO card for a year, by virtue of marriage, she is already a PIO. Of course the plot thickens if we want to discuss whether her PIO status is only valid if we register our marriage in India but I'd rather not even think about that at the moment! (we do intend to register it in India when we can, though) :O

Unfortunatelly the only matter is if she has a PIO card or not (lawfully till that time she is only Portugese and EU citizen married to Indian). But for getting Entry X visa to India there is not important that you legalized your marriage in US but if you legalized your marriage in India. This i did not understood if you have legal Indian wedding certifikate or not. If you do not have, your wife is not your wife in India yet so she can come on tourist visa (I have done my paperwork back in Czech as I married in India and till that time I got czech wedding certifikate my husband was not considered as my husband by the Czech law. But that is Czech, so who knows how it is in India)...so i guess the problem might not be getting entry X visa but legalization of your US marriage and issuing indian wedding certificate via consulate as your wife is not US citizen.

But good luck with consul. And hope it will get solved soon.
#15 May 9th, 2013, 13:05
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#15
Thanks kopretina.

I've just spoken to the Indian consulates in Thailand, Nepal and Dubai to see if they would process our entry visa for us as non residents of those regions and all of them said yes. The lady in Nepal was a bit confused about an apostille because she said she needed to get our marriage certificate attested at MEA, New Delhi. I explained to her that the document is apostilled by the US govt. and I doubt MEA in India will attest a foreign issued document. She was, however very nice and said she would confirm with the visa officers and let me know. In theory, however, all of them were willing to process the visa for a non resident, foreign wife of an Indian citizen with no request for any 'special circumstance' exception. Obviously, I want to do her entry visa in the US considering we are here and this is the place we got married in, but apparently the Indian consulate in India is exactly as nycank said - marches to it's own drumbeat. They seem to be the exception rather than the rule at the moment.. =/

I meant Indian consulate in SFO in the above post :S Is it not possible to edit your own posts on indiamike ? :O

I'm feeling exhausted with all this stress so am going to hit the sack. Lets see if tomorrow brings any good news for us. Will keep you updated, thanks for all the support and ideas guys
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