Young, Black and DEPORTED.
Traveling is not for the faint of heart. Of course, Instagram paints a pretty travel life picture. Blue waters, dope explorations, exotic dishes, great shots with bomb outfits as part of the backdrop. Travel life is IT! But what’s not IT is sitting in immigration waiting to be deported. Let me tell you ‘bout that…
Let’s take it back about 2 years ago….
December 2017, I planned, like every year around this time, to take my annual “National Day Vacay”. For those of you who don’t know, the UAE celebrates its independence on December 2nd by hosting over the top events, musical ceremonies, and my favorite…giving its government employees time off of work (one of the many perks of being a teacher).
In 2015, my first year abroad, I took advantage of the holiday by traveling to Amsterdam. 2016, I journeyed to Malaysia. This year, 2017, I had my eyes on new sites, western India! Goa to be specific. My friends and I scheduled a birthday celebration for our homegirl who would bring in her dirty 30 during the holiday. We planned for a month to take a 6 person group trip to the party town, located in the south-western region of India. We booked our flights, a dope hotel that was exclusively vacant for our group, set up tours, and had a bunch of fun activities lined up. India was about to be liiitttt!!
In the pre-planning process, we knew that it was required to have a visa to enter India. The government website suggested applying 7 days before departure as it takes 3-5 days to process. So, everyone applied and received their visas…except who? You guessed it, ME (and my boyfriend)!
Alright, don’t look at the screen like that. It’s not that simple. I applied like a good little traveler, crossed my T’s & dotted my I’s so that I could go on the trip. The only thing is, I never received my visa like everyone else. I applied, I paid (so I thought) and waited a day or two. Well, nothing ever came. So, I tried to reapply and again NOTHING!! So, like any person in this situation I’m low key freaking out! I had read and was told several horror stories about being denied entry into India. I even knew someone who didn’t apply for a visa prior to their trip. They got to the airport and they wouldn’t even let him board the plane. BIG FAIL!!! I knew I didn’t want to face the same fate, so as a result, I went into a deep dive of research trying to find an alternative solution. And after all of my efforts and research…VIOLA…an answer appeared!
A friend that had faced a similar problem pointed me in the direction of an expedited visa site. Expedited Visa Site. The site gave several services.
Normal Visa (3 working days) $130
Urgent Visa (2 working days) $160
Super Urgent (1 working days) $190
Super Duper Urgent (5 working hours, available in the afternoon of the weekdays) $220
Now, a normal visa on the government site Government Visa is about $75. We had 4 days until our trip and didn’t really want to drop the money but, the trip was paid for so….what are ya gonna do? We ended up coughing up the $130 and applying through the alternate site. They gave us instructions that our visas would be ready by the time we left Dubai to head to India. Easy enough right?
The day of the trip came and we were packed and ready to go. But, there was one small “thing” that kept eating at us. The expedited site told us that our permanent visas were not ready but they would send “temporary visas”. And not that temporary visas weren’t a good enough solution, but, what the hell is a temporary visa? Regardless of our reservations, we pressed on. When we made it to the airport we hesitantly handed our passports and visas over to the agent at the check-in desk and waited for our fate. The agents looked over our documents and handed them back over while wishing us a safe and happy trip. We figured we could officially relax and that we were in the clear. We were ready to vacation & party!!
NOT SO FAST!!
We land in India, deboard the plane and start to make our way to immigration to clear customs. As we are walking up I just have a feeling in the pit of my stomach that something isn’t right. So, I call the visa company to check if my visa is ready.
Visa Company: The immigration site is down, they aren’t issuing any visas.
Me: What does that even mean?
Visa Company: There is maintenance on the site and they aren’t issuing visas right now. We should email you with your visa soon.
As you can probably imagine I am pissed and beyond nervous at this point. We are in Mumbai for only a 2-hour layover, so it’s not like time is on our side. I literally creep up to the immigration officers knowing full well that this document might not work. But what do I do? I slide my passport and temporary visa right on over and act as if nothing has happened.
Imagine the look of surprise I gave the officer when they ask me and Travis (my boyfriend), to step to the side for further investigation.
We are then moved to a detaining room where two immigration officers are reviewing our files. The officers start with,
OFFICER: Where did you get these visas?
ME: We applied for them online
OFFICER: These visas belong to someone else
**SIDENOTE: The visas have our pictures and our information and “visa numbers”**
ME: How? They have our information on them
OFFICER: Where did you buy them!!?
ME: We told you online!!
OFFICER: You stole visa! You steal identity!!
ME: 😮 Say what now!?
OFFICER: You stole visa! You try to sneak in!! You must leave.
I’m livid! I literally can feel steam shooting from my nose. I explain to the officer what happened on the government site and where we bought our visas. He responds that any site that isn’t a government site is a scam and that we bought visas from someone who is already inside the country. At that moment I’m on the phone calling the expedited service to figure out what the hold up is and what they plan to do. They continue to tell me that the Indian immigration site is under construction and that nobody that is applying for a visa can receive it until the site is back up. We relay the message to the officers but they are not having it! They don’t want us on our phones or talking to anyone, they’ve taken our passports and told us that we must leave. I keep asking them if their system is down and the only answer that they are giving me is, “We don’t know the answers to this.” The expedited site keeps telling us that our visas will be ready soon and that they aren’t a scam site. I’m literally crying my eyes out because by now, our connecting flight has taken off, our friends are headed to a bomb ass vacation and we are being detained. Over it doesn’t begin to explain how I feel.
The officers finally grant us permission to go to the restroom and sit in the departures lobby until the plane that they are forcing us to get on to take us back to Dubai is ready – with a police escort might I add. They instructed us that we were mandated to take the next plane destined back to our departure port. I reiterated that the service would have our visas soon and that we just wanted to wait it out until they were emailed to us. The officers absolutely refused by telling us “Nobody in the airport without visa. You stole, you must leave now!” They yelled at us in front of people and embarrassed us by accompanying us around the terminal as if we were criminals. It was the absolute worst experience.
At this stage of what seems to be a nightmare it’s been 4 hours and we haven’t eaten or been able to leave the airport lobby. All of the restaurants are on the other side where we are forbidden to enter. They have our passports. I’m running up God knows how many minutes on my phone bill trying to straighten out this visa situation. I feel I’ve been scammed & stupid. I’ve lost out on a bomb vacation, and most importantly, I AM BEING DEPORTED!!
During our extended stay in the lobby, one of the airline attendants at the front desk ask us why we are flying back to Dubai and I explain our situation. She says to me “Really? Immigration is down all of the time, I’m not sure why they won’t let you wait it out.” I honestly couldn’t even muster up any more emotion. I didn’t have the energy.
After a 6-7 hour unplanned layover, the officers finally tell us that it is time to board our flight. He has our documents in hand and walks us all the way to the departure gate. He then hands our documents over to the flight crew giving them instructions to escort us wherever we try to go that is away from the gate. SO EMBARRASSING!! I could have been in my head but people were staring at us. I could almost swear that I even saw someone pointing and laughing.
I definitely probably made that up but that’s beside the point, I felt like crap. We finally got to board the plane…LAST!! I’m assuming so that we could watch the flight attendant lock away our documents. They sat us right by the stewardess pit. I’m also assuming when I say that this was so that the attendants could make sure we didn’t make a run for it through the emergency exit. We boarded the plane and took off at approximately 4:15 pm. When we arrived back in Dubai we had to exit last AGAIN and were walked to the end of the terminal ramp that connected to the airport. Once our feet touched the carpet connected to the airport we were handed our documents and told to have a great day. (If only my looks could kill)
On the ride back home I decided to check my email to see if there was any more correspondence with the expedited service. And would you believe that at 4:20 our official India visas arrived, as promised.
Fast forward to today. Travel fouls happen to the best of us. Even an expert traveler (as I have self-deemed myself) can mess up too. I mean, this disastrous event happened to me in my prime of travel. Not to mention this was the first of TWO deportations for me. (To be disclosed in a future post). But, I can continue onward knowing that my experience has and will continue to help travelers of all experiences.
Here you can find some important points that you can take from my travel fail so that you don’t experience the same misfortune:
- Check visa requirements BEFORE travel
- Check at least one month before travel
- Try to use official sites
- When you go through secondary sites you have no way to prove validity. Although the site I dealt with turned out to be legit, this may not always be the case
- Check if visas must be applied for or if you can get them on arrival
- Check the cost of visas
- Check the currency accepted for visas
- I have traveled to a country that only wanted USD but USD was not the currency of the country and was not the currency I exchanged before travel. This forced me to withdraw money from an ATM and rack up surcharges. And ain’t nobody got time for that!
I really hope that my experience and tips can help you to navigate through future travel. If you ever have any questions please don’t hesitate to drop a comment or shoot me a message.
Until next time,
Take The World!