The Visa

Unlike going to some countries like the UK or the US, going to India requires one to obtain a visa. So what is a a visa?

“A visa (from the Latin charta visa, meaning “paper which has been seen”)[1] is a conditional authorization granted by a country (typically to a foreigner) to enter and temporarily remain within, or to leave that country. Visas typically include limits on the duration of the foreigner’s stay, territory within the country they may enter, the dates they may enter, or the number of permitted visits. Visas are associated with the request for permission to enter a country and thus are, in some countries, distinct from actual formal permission for an alien to enter and remain in the country. In each instance, a visa is subject to entry permission by an immigration official at the time of actual entry and can be revoked at any time.”

Getting an Indian visa requires one to apply to the Indian consular, for us the one in Vancouver, but to apply is person you have to use an third party agency called BLS and the nearest one is in Edmonton. As we planned to be in Edmonton recently to see Jerry Seinfeld, we decided to go a little early and drop off our applications.

We did all the research and sat down one afternoon with a beer and filled on the forms, ok let’s step back and explain the process.

  1. Go to the Indian Consular website
  2. Fill in the online for  form
  3. Print out the online form (although you print out the form it is numbered and in the system)
  4. Fill in the online form again because you’ve made mistakes (any time there’s a mistake once you print it, you have to redo it).
  5. Reprint the form
  6. Take the form to the BLS office
  7. Wait 7 to 10 days
  8. Receive Visa via Fedex.

We set off early on Friday Nov 18, around 7am, we arrived at the BLS Centre at around 12:15. The office was on the Southside of Edmonton close to South Edmonton Common, a standard commercial strip mall, as we walked up the stairs an East Indian gentleman mentioned that it was a long line-up, was he right.

We entered the office into the waiting area filled packed with East Indians and of course being the only “white” people everyone looked, not in a bad way, more a curious “haha do they really known what they are getting into?” way.

The office was one large room with a waiting area similar to the doctors office, up at the window end there where three desks, two face out and one sideways. Also in the middle room was a end table with a paper on it, this was the sign in, you entered your name, type of application, you can apply for a passport here, number of applicants as well as the time you arrived, we filled in the info and found a spot in the corner near the front, there where no chairs at this point, standing room only… guess that is to get you used to being in India!!

As part of the visa process we had to supply a 2×2 passport style photo, we decided to take advantage of the service offered at BLS, they said they had a photo-booth for pictures, although we could not see one in the office, not even really a place to take pictures.

As we stood there we observed that two people at desks called people up to process their application which seemed to involved them checking the documents, typing information into a  computer and taking money. The other person, whose desk was sideways, did not seem to do much aside from use his cell phone and help someone use a computer you could use to fill in the online application. This person also seemed to have a photo printer on his desk so we wondered if he took the photos, I decided to ask.

I wandered over to the persons desk and as it was a little noisy stepped behind the desk, to the side of him… big mistake! It was like stepping across the line at passport control, I almost expected guns to be drawn and to be thrown into a jail for eternity. At the least I felt like everyone in the room was watching and listening.

Anyhow I ask about the photos and he and one of the guys with the front facing desks said they would take them later, we assumed as they processed our applications, so I moved back into the corner and observed the person with the sideways desk do not much of anything, oh well, red tape!

As we waited, one of the people who submitted their application stood up and went up against a wall while one of the people processing came around to the other side of the desk with a camera and asked her to stand against the wall, he was taking her picture. When he took hers he indicated to me to stand against the wall, remove my glasses, tilt my head… snap! Same for Jenn, although when he indicated to her to look more to the right she moved right and nearly fell over a recycling bin, oops… nerves… back to the corner to wait.

Once in a while I would look at the list and see where we stood, until one of the people behind the desk too the list away, well took away page one as it was full and page two was getting filled pretty quick. We had been there nearly two hours.

There was a young man, probably in his 20s waiting in line ahead of us.  After he waited 2 hours to be seen, he found out he filled out the wrong form.  As mentioned earlier, our closest consulate is Vancouver.  He must have done the Toronto or Ottawa form.  He was sent away like the beloved Seinfeld Soup Nazi character sends away customers.

Suddenly the person who seemed to be the “manager” of the office called out “Derek” yay, after nearly two hours time to process. He copied our passport and driving license and changed a box from double entry to multiple, not sure why, but I guess double and multiple are different. The processing did not take too long and we left having been there for two hours, paying around $250, all for the privilege of going to India and paying a bunch more money as a tourist.

On the way out Jenn looked at the receipt and noticed that we had not been charged the $15 each for pictures it was then I thought to myself that he had not pasted our pictures to the application, for someone reason we don’t not go back to check why, I guess standing for 2 hours was long enough, so off we went to our AirBnB, that’s for another blog post.




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