Visa applications as a preview of what a country is like

I have a friend who says: “You have not really travelled to a country until you’ve visited its administration”. As annoying as they are (I would rather travel everywhere visa-free), visa applications are a good way to get a little overview of what a country is like.

A few examples:

Many countries with Soviet heritage still suffer from bureaucracy inefficiencies and require an incredible amount of papers. This is why I often use the help of agencies for those countries.

Once at the Russian embassy, where they require me to give proof of travel insurance, they suddenly decided to reject any proof that would not be an original with the original stamp on it; my visa support agency luckily could quickly issue a second travel insurance for me to get my visa.

I went through equally bureaucratic procedures in the likes of Belarus, Uzbekistan, etc but the winner was Azerbaijan which, at the times, was requiring so many documents that I did not even bother to try and just lost my plane ticket.

Recently, the Russian embassy has decided that, as a French citizen, I would have to give three months of bank statements. So here I am, printing three months of statements – that’s many pages. Got to the visa application centre, handed in my pile of print outs to hear the officer sigh and tell me there were too many!

In Cuba’s visa application centre, it was complete chaos, we were waiting without knowing who was next, people were being called without any logical order.

In the embassy of Burkina Faso, I was asked to come Tuesday to collect the passport. But Tuesday, they said the man who stamps the visa was not there and I should come back Thursday.

In the tiny embassy of Surinam in Brussels, an officer asked me if they could take advantage of me flying there to bring a package to their family.

But my favourite remains the U.S. embassy in Brussels: you had to call to make an appointment and this was not free of charge. So even before you could talk to anyone on the phone, you had to give your credit card details!

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I love the US Embassy in London where I went for my visa earlier this year. A massive, very symbolic building!
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