Like many seeking to keep their job options open, I decided to invest in a two-years UK visa (Post Study Work Visa). I figured I am entitled to apply and since it will be abolished in April, it seemed imminent to apply ASAP. I did my homework on the application while in the UK but because I had some things to attend to in Nigeria, I decided to delay my application and do it in Nigeria. It will be easy (I thought to myself, naively). I found out application details ranging from the exact amount of application fee to the specification of passport photographs (to the millimeter).
In Nigeria, the service of UK visa application is handled by a company called VFS Global. Since I will be applying through this “middleman”, I decided to check the website of VFS Global for additional visa application requirements. I didn’t find any. It seemed to me that VFS Global manages logistics of the application (using the UK Border Office application requirements) and submit applications in the best format for the UK Border Office. I was naive.
Entrance, Queuing and Waiting
After a few circuits on a crescent (circular street), I finally got a parking space. There was no parking agent around so I tiptoed away from my car (as if making noise will draw attention to my car). I didn’t actually tiptoed but in my head I was; I wanted free parking. At the gate of VFS Global, I showed my completed application form, ID and switched off my mobile device. I passed through the metal detector. By the way, it must be the quietest metal detector because I have never heard it make the tiniest beep (and I have passed it a couple of times).
Entering the submission room, I enquired from a uniformed staff if I was in the right place; in English. He replied in a native tongue; instantly trapping me into becoming more familiar with him than I would have by default. He marked me well based on my dressing which gave away my ethnic background. As if to decline his hospitable invitation, I replied to him in English (with a grateful face). He gave me a queue number 94 and offered me a seat that appeared to be for his distinguished. I thanked him and checked the queue on the board was at 72. I sighed.
I didn’t have anything to read with me nor could I turn my mobile device, so I got in to one of my hobbies; observing people. I made a couple of friends and chatted intermittently for the first hour. Second hour; we were entertained by two cute toddlers roaming around. Third hour; I was counting five more people to go while cross checking my documents. I thought to myself, why did I bring all these extra photos and unrequested documents? Then I remembered, you can’t be too careful.
The Announcement and the rupture
There were two people ahead of me now. My uniformed friend came over (with an I-am-doing-you-a-favour face) and informed me undeterred by the fact that I was intensely staring at the queue board. May be he thought I couldn’t understand that when a number is stricken (and the correspondingly-numbered queue card disposed in the trash), it means the customer has been served. How dumb he thought of me. What a nice guy.
Unanticipated, a staff from behind the submission counter came to the front to give an important Announcement:
Ladies and Gentlemen, can I have your attention please. We offer VIP services downstairs for those who want to be attended to in less than 30 minutes. It costs N10000 ($70+) and you can wait in the VIP lounge
I thought what the?!!… for a moment until a voice behind me said “only N10000 naira? you should ‘ve told us earlier. I am going downstairs”. A few mumblings and then between 5 and 10 customers went downstairs. What was I thinking to judge this announcement as unfair even for those who can afford it but didn’t come with the cash? This information is neither on the website nor on any board there for one to plan.
The staff continued:
Can I have your attention please, I am not done. The passport photographs must be colored, white/grey background, UK-Visa size and you can’t be wearing a white shirt. Make a photocopy of all your documents except your bank statement
PhotographSSSS?!! white shirt?!! photocopies?!! these were alien to me, after all my homework. I referred to the forms and I was right. The passport photo requirement didn’t have any of these strange caveats. There was a mention of photocopy (on the UK Boarder website) but only as what NOT TO DO; they want only originals.
Luckily I had extra colored photos; I planned to submit the last of a photo-set since the website requires only one photo. There was a photocopying machine in the room so I quickly got copies of my documents. It was my turn after three hours of queuing. The announcing staff (now behind the counter) looked at my two photos and said they were too dark and can’t be accepted. He said it in a dismissive tone. Then he offered that I go down take an instant photo and come back. While taming my instinct to thrash their work ethics he said to my uniformed friend: “He will go down and come back. Give him a new queue number when he comes back”
WHAT THE #!!!?!@#$@*
The queue board now had its last customer at number 122. Then I gave him (behind the counter) a piece of my mind. As I was leaving my concerned uniformed friend came to calm me and persuaded me to go down and do it anyway, “it will just be one or two hours more” he said. But having stayed there for three hours, I know how long one has to stay with twenty people ahead of you. I simply told him (this time in a native language since we ‘ve become friends) that I will come back the next day. I will go cool off, get other stuff done and then come early tomorrow when there is less queue. My uniformed friend actually had a sad face as I left. How empathetic of him… I thought.