“Come again at 11” – Visa officer
Tomorrow is the national day of Indonesia, and from here, Herat, the closest Indonesian embassy is in Tehran. I do really wish to spend this year’s national day in an embassy with fellow Indonesians. Somehow the feeling of nationality arouses tremendously after long period of traveling, and “Agustusan” – our national day which is on August 17, doesn’t only mean Indonesian food party with fellow countrymen. I miss the ceremony, something I used to condemn as nationalism propaganda when I was in high school. Anyway, I have to be in the Indonesian embassy at this national day.
Tehran is in Iran, it’s another country. According to the recent news, Iran is a visa free country for Indonesian passport holders for 2 weeks. But Iranian embassies and consulates say different things about it. The consulate in Peshawar said that the visa free agreement was valid for all land borders, the embassy in Tashkent (thanks to Indonesian embassy in Uzbekistan for the enquiry) agreed about it, but they said it would be only for a week. Iran embassy in Jakarta (thanks to Maria Asten for successfully enquiring the always-seem-to-be-busy phone numbers) was not sure about the land borders and suggested to come to Iran only by air. The embassy in Kabul said that visa was needed in any circumstances. Such misinformation between embassies …
There is Iranian consulate in Herat. I went there at 8 and there was already a queue of hundreds of people as long as 200 m. The Afghans start the queue as early as 4 in the morning, while the consulate opens at 7. It would be no chance for me even to enquire if I had to wait such a long queue. Likely with the Indonesian cap I managed to look different, and security guard dragged me out the queue and threw me directly in front of the window.
I asked the visa officer about the visa free agreement, he said, “I don’t know.” He suggested me directly to go to the border if I was sure about that. I was sure before, but after the information from the different embassies, I became uncertain. “Can I get the visa today?” I wonder whether I can cross the border today if I take the visa. “No, after 4 or 5 days,” said him, while giving me visa application form.
It took me about 30 minutes to decide whether to fill the form or just simply go directly to the border. For Afghan applicants, they have to leave their passports in the consulate for 10-12 days for visa. But still 4 days for waiting for me was too long, and I would miss the national day again. Going to the border directly without certain guarantee like this is also risky. So then I filled the form and handed in my application.
“42 $,” said the old visa officer after checking the book. I also handed in the letter from my embassy. He was surprised when reading it. It seemed that introduction letter from embassy was not necessary for visa application. He looked satisfied with the later, and said, “come again at 11.” It was almost 9. I thought he told me to come back for interview for the visa.
I came again at 11. The window has been closed. There were several other windows and the number of people queuing had been reduced dramatically. Suddenly my passport was thrown out the window, and before I had chance saying anything, the window had been shut again. I checked my passport. Wow, Iranian visa sticker, computer printed, had been beautifully stuck on the passport page. I got the visa from a country that is notorious as reluctant in issuing visa just in 2 hours, while most other travelers have to wait for weeks and not uncommon to be refused a visa. I got my visa without interview, without invitation letter, and without blood test (like Iranian visa in Pakistan).
You will never know how powerful letter of Indonesian embassy might be.