Just a quick side note regarding visas and travelling. We’re planning on spending the months of September and October travelling in South Africa, Namibia, and Botswana. All of these countries require a tourist visa from an Estonian passport holder (moi!). After some research online whilst we were travelling in Europe we decided that it’s easiest to apply for all the visas during our time in Washington because all of the relevant embassies are available. None of these countries have representation in Estonia so we would’ve had to travel to another country to apply anyway. The information online didn’t advise against it, so we didn’t think about it much more.
A side-side note. South African embassy requires all the applicants to apply in person. The closest embassy to Estonia is in Finland and they have an additional requirement for all applicants from Estonia to come fetch an application form *in person* from the embassy as well. Then, they ask for the applicant to make an appointment and return with the filled out application for an interview and pile of documentation. Then, we’d also have to return within 10 days to collect our passport and (hopefully) a visa. That’s 3 trips abroad *minimum*, plus any trips needed to supply additional documentations if needed. That’s trips to *another country*. And we’re not talking about a short drive either- it involves a boat etc.
So, once we arrived in DC we pretty much immediately went to South African embassy with a complete pack of documents. The building near Georgetown (The embassy row) is pretty impressive, very quiet. There was no line so we got to approach the guy behind a large glass window almost straight away. He looked at my papers, answered phone calls at the same time and argues with someone for a while, read all my invite letters and bank statements and then looked up.
“Where is your visa?”
– “What visa?”
“For USA. Where is your visa to the USA?”
– “Oh, i don’t need a visa to visit USA. Estonia’s visa requirement was scrapped years ago.” With slight confusion, I add, “We’re part of the EU. European Union.”
The guy looks stunned. “No visa? I need proof of that.”
Now I’m completely confused. How am I supposed to prove a requirement that’s not there? I ask him to explain what he wants me to do.
“You need to come back with a paper from US government to say Estonia is a country and it doesn’t require a visa for tourists.”
We try to discuss this with him, we suggest he goes on the Internet and google Estonia to which he simply said, “We don’t do that.”
With empty hands, we left. Well, my hands were actually full of all the documents but you get the idea. Anyway, we had to make a new plan to return the following week, which was inconvenient but what else were we going to do? We decided to drive back from Virginia Beach (5 hours away) after the Independence Day weekend to apply again with the magical printout from US state department website ‘proving’ Estonia is a legitimate country.
Fast forward to our next visit. I have the magical printout from the magical Internet! Same guy, same window.
“Oh. You’re a tourist.” Blank eyes.
– “Yes, like we discussed before and see, I don’t need a visa to visit the USA, I have highlighted the bit on that paper for you.” I leave the accusation hang in the air. You told me it’s ok.
“You can’t apply for a visa here if you’re a tourist. You have to go in your country.” I’m being dismissed.
– “Um, you don’t have an Embassy in Estonia. And last week you said we can apply here.” I give him a stare. Are you fucking kidding me?
“No, you can’t apply here. You’re a tourist.” I swear i saw an eye roll.
I continued to argue with him about what he had said, the location of embassies, the ridiculousness of the whole thing. I even saw his superior, a nicer lady who pretty much reiterated what the guy was saying. So regardless of the facts that I had been given false information directly from them, that no information was available online about it, and that I had all the relevant documentation, and that there is no embassy in Estonia they still refused to take my application.
I cried after we left the building, on their steps. The situation seemed so stupid and I felt so helpless. I hate feeling helpless. I’m a doer, a fixer, “no” is never an option. And there was nothing right at that moment I could do so I let myself have that moment of desperation.
After all that, we have now changed our flights so that we can go back to London and apply for the darn visa there. Because if i did it in Estonia (sorry, Finland) I wouldn’t have any of the local documentation they would need. This added tons of cost to our trip, changed our schedule, not to mention the added edge of not knowing whether I have the visa to board the flight to Cape Town from Istanbul on the 5th September.
If you’re thinking, why didn’t she just apply for the visas before she left London? Well, I did think of that. However, South African embassy doesn’t allow visa applications for trips that are more than 3 months away. We left London at the end of April and we planned to visit South Africa in September so that wouldn’t have worked anyway.
After all the tears and swearing we are now going back to London for a week or so and i hope (truly madly deeply hope!) that my application there will be accepted and processed quickly. Fingers crossed.