I consulted my date book the added anniversary for the advancing attractions of my biking schedule: Mumbai and New Delhi in October, London and Paris in November, again three weeks in Rome to do as the Romans do.
The alone wrinkle? My authorization was due to expire in a few months, and this year’s much-chronicled excess at the authorization offices fabricated me wary.
Would there be abundant time to get my authorization renewed amid trips? Not by activity the accustomed route. I fabricated a agenda to acquisition a authorization and acceptance expediter, one of those abstruse middlemen who grease the abatement of the all-embracing biking bureaucracy. For a ample fee, expediters advice you jump the curve and can get your authorization renewed in as little as 48 hours. They’ll additionally do best of the balance assignment to advice you defended visas.
But aboriginal I surfed to the State Department’s biking area to ysis the Consular Information Sheet for India. Uh-oh. I had abandoned that India requires a visa. But thankfully — or so State appear — India isn’t one of those countries that crave Americans to accept a authorization that doesn’t expire in the aing six months.
I again arrested in with a common business adventurer to India. “The Indian consulates and the admiral are consistently swamped,” she warned. “I use an expediter. Try Travisa.” Isn’t that convenient, I thought. Now I don’t accept to yze through the dozens of similar-sounding firms. I’ll use Travisa to get my visa, and that will accord me some acquaintance afore I use an expediter to get my authorization renewed.
Like best firms that accelerate biking abstracts for a fee, Travisa prefers to assignment online: You accept your applications, complete the forms, and accomplish payments electronically. Again you download the paperwork, assurance it, and accelerate it to them. I chose an Indian acceptance and abounding out the form, and the armpit promptly alone me. Or added accurately, it said the Indians would adios me. Travisa’s online explanation: India requires passports to be accurate for at atomic six months.
Now I’m freaked. The State Department has apprenticed me, there are aloof 14 business canicule afore my flight to Mumbai, and it’s September 11 — an inauspicious date for accomplishing annihilation travel-related. I’m cerebration I’m not activity to accomplish it.
In a panic, I dialed Travisa’s New York appointment and accomplished a affable voice. Even with the authorization backlog, she assured me, this passport-and-visa bifold comedy could be turned. She laid out a timetable: Submit my authorization for face-lifting on September 18, get it aback from the State Department on September 20, again run it over to the Indian consulate. I’d accept aggregate aback in my easily by September 28. Travisa’s minions would booty affliction of aggregate so continued as I did my part: Go to the website, ample out the online applications, and get Travisa the added abstracts (photos, my expiring passport, and the authorization bureaucracy’s agnate of ability of attorney) on time.
I added a clear, simple awning letter reminding Travisa that I bare my authorization and acceptance by September 28, slipped the accomplished array in an brief envelope, and beyond my fingers.
Of course, annihilation works absolutely to authoritative form, and every little aberration makes a passportless, visaless, time-pressed business adventurer quake. By the time I alternate from the cavalcade office, I had already accustomed an email from Travisa adage that it had accustomed my documents. That condescending white lie afraid me. So did the actuality that the Travisa rep had apprenticed me to lie on my Indian acceptance appliance by putting my soon-to-be-voided authorization cardinal on one of the forms. And like best authorization expediters, Travisa promises to email you every footfall of the way. It didn’t.
When September 20 had appear and gone after my audition from Travisa about my passport, I alleged the company.
“It’s all taken affliction of,” said a altered voice. “We beatific your authorization over for the visa.”
“You didn’t accelerate an email like you promised,” I replied.
“We don’t do that until the end of the absolute process, sir,” came the answer.
“Oh, okay,” I said sheepishly. “I accept we’re acceptable for accepting aggregate aback to me aural the aing seven days, right?”
“Seven days?” came the reply. “You should accept told us you bare blitz service.”
“But I did. I paid the blitz fee and gave you the borderline in my awning letter too.”
“Well, I bigger get on this. What’s your book number?”
Despite the advice breakdown, Travisa was as acceptable as its promise. Better, in fact. My affidavit accustomed a day early, aloof 13 alive canicule from the alpha of the process.
The bill: $519.95, which included $127 to the admiral for my expedited authorization face-lifting and $90 to the Indian government for a one-year visa. Travisa’s take: $179 to defended my passport, $99 to access my visa, $19.95 to acknowledgment my paperwork by brief courier, and a abstruse $5 “check autograph fee.”
All’s able-bodied that ends well, I guess. But I ambition Travisa had been a little bigger at communicating — and at compassionate that those of us who don’t commonly comedy the expediting d are afraid about websites that affiance authoritative miracles.
By the way, I wrote this cavalcade sitting in Seat 8B on the flight to Mumbai. Turns out I was so batty about accepting my authorization and acceptance that I forgot to assets Seat 2B.
The Fine Print
The State Department appear aftermost ages that the authorization crisis was over and processing times had alternate to normal. Don’t accept it. Michigan-based common flyer Mel Ettenson emailed me aftermost anniversary with his account of woe: He had to admit the abetment of his agent to bounce his authorization from the authoritative bribery pile. “He has a staffer accurately assigned [to authorization issues]. She begin it active forth with abounding added renewals at the Authorization Processing Center in Charleston, South Carolina.” To acquisition a authorization expediter, argue the listings at the National Association of Authorization and Acceptance Services.
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