Just one more document…

In December I toddled off to Lagos looking forward to a busy week with partners and customers.

On arrival, it turned out that what I had been told was a visa valid for twelve months was actually only valid for six and had just expired. I was sent straight back.

It was my fault, all things considered – I should have checked and checked again. Emirates should also have checked before I boarded. Anyway, it was a short trip – an hour and a half in Lagos and about twenty two hours door to door travel. I was exhausted and furious.

I’m planning to go again the week after next, so I’m applying for a new twelve month visa. (Twelve months, pleeeeeease!).

Fortunately I called my guy who handles visa type admin for me, rather than going to Abu Dhabi to do it myself. (This type of admin-handling job is known as a PRO, Public Relations Officer, in the Gulf. Nothing to do with PR as in Absolutely Fabulous, although the idea of Eddie and Patsy dropping paper all over the floor of a consulate is an amusing one).

Not surprisingly there are new Nigerian visa requirements – in addition to the visa form, payment receipt and acknowledgement receipt and invitation letter and no objection letter from your company, you now also need a copy of the trade licence of the organisation who wrote the invitation letter, as well as a passport and visa copy of the person who wrote the invitation letter. Got all that?

This is not mentioned anywhere on any forms or websites. Also not mentioned is the fact that a PRO can no longer handle your application on your behalf at the consulate in Abu Dhabi – that used to allow you to use someone else to drop off the papers in the morning and collect the passport with visa in the afternoon. A PRO can, however, drop off your documents at the ‘consulate lite’ in Dubai, who you then pay to, erm, drop them off in Abu Dhabi and collect your passport two days later. This is what your PRO used to do, but now these guys do it and charge you more.

The ‘consulate lite’ appears to be an outsourced company to make the process easier, which is to be welcomed. It also makes sense, considering the majority of people applying for visas won’t actually be living in Abu Dhabi, but in Dubai.

When filling in the online form, I was given the tantalising option of applying for the visa at the ‘Dubai consulate’. I looked up their website, but it doesn’t give any info whatsoever, including contact details and location. It’s also in a totally different format to the Abu Dhabi consulate’s website, which made me wonder if it was real. The Abu Dhabi Embassy website makes no mention of this Dubai based service. Presumably, the outsourced office in JLT is the Dubai consulate the site mentions.

Anyway, thank goodness for Jibran from the excellent Sands Business Management Services, who explained all of this to me. On Sunday he’ll pick up all these documents to drop them off around the corner at JLT at the new consulate/outsourced place and, hopefully, I’ll have my visa on Tuesday. (I’d drop it off myself but I have other commitments).

Countries are entitled to demand whatever they wish when it comes to visas. It’s also great that Nigeria has looked at making the process easier thanks to the Dubai option. I just wish that all the info were openly available instead of being a secret…

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