Posts tagged “visa”

Cultural norms

A couple of weeks ago there was some concern over the SF Indian Consulate getting rid of old visa applications in a very insecure manner:

Thousands of visa applications and other sensitive documents, including paperwork submitted by top executives and political figures, sat for more than a month in the open yard of a San Francisco recycling center after they were dumped there by the city’s Indian Consulate.

The documents, which security experts say represented a potential treasure trove for identity thieves or terrorists, finally were hauled away Wednesday after The Chronicle inspected the site and questioned officials at the consulate and the recycling facility.

The article goes on to detail what data about what types of people they found in their examination of the site and the expected quotes from security experts about what type of risk this creates.

Having gone through the visa application process ourselves for our trip to India last January, it’s a little disturbing to read that

a sampling of documents obtained by The Chronicle indicate that the boxes contained confidential paperwork for virtually everyone in California and other Western states who applied for visas to travel to India between 2002 and 2005.

But I was sadly amused by the response from the consulate

Consul General Prakash said there may be a cultural dimension to the level of outrage related to the incident among Western visa applicants.

“In India, I would not be alarmed,” he said. “We have grown up giving such information in many, many places. We would not be so worried if someone had our passport number.”

Deputy Consul General Sircar said that in other countries, Indian officials are able to go to the roofs of their offices and burn documents they’re no longer able to store.

“In America, you cannot do that,” he said.

You can just hear the bristling bureaucratic response, colored with that cliched “no-problem”!

Prepping for Asia

Last week we went to get our vaccinations in preparation for January’s trip to Hong Kong, Bangkok, and India. Already a significant frame shift, for now we’re having conversations about horrible ridiculous diseases that we don’t even think about. I got shot up for Hep A, influenza, and polio. Been taking pills for typhus. And we’ve got pills for malaria to be taken en route.

Strange experience at the injection clinic at Kaiser, our HMO. The reception area is a hallway. With a door opening to the cold outside right next to it, and plenty of foot traffic going through. At least 10 signs on the door with a range of contradictory instructions about how to gain access; the door is locked and you can drop your card (for drop-in, I guess) into a Lucite contraption that seems guaranteed to eat your card, or your card and typed-up-form (for those with appointments who went to reception) into a shelf on the back of the door that seems guaranteed to eat your card. Not clear who should do which, or when. A sign indicates the waiting area. Above an empty part of the wall, where the chairs are quite some distance away. It’s a nightmare; we watched a woman and daughter approach, where the woman clearly had little English, and she didn’t even pay attention to the signs and try to problem-solve with them, she just peered through the small window and tried to make eye contact with someone for help. Good solution, I guess, since the instructions/information design was horrific.

Once inside, we are given a form and a clipboard. The form was a photocopy of a photocopy of a photocopy (reproductio ad absurdum) that could barely be read and of course included all sorts of information (name, address, contact info, member number) that was redundant to what was already captured by the computer form from reception.

And the injection nurse was the nicest, coolest most helpful person you could ever hope to meet in a healthcare situation! The human factor was awesome; the human factors were terrible. She talked to us about her own travels; advised us about injections based on good information re: the types of exposure based on types of activity, side-effects and so on. She had decorated the small injection room with blowups of her own exotic travel pictures. We had a good time with her.

Meanwhile, we also got our visa from the Indian consulate in San Francisco. You show up with all your paperwork between 9am and noon, and then show up at 4:00 to pick up your finished visa (in fact, they hold onto your passport for this time and put a special document into one of the pages). Upon our return we got the horrible customer service question for Anne: “Could it be under another name?” but eventually they found it. Turned out they had held it because she was red-flagged. Based on occupation. Yep, a social worker is required to come in and sign a special form declaring they won’t practice any social work while in India. I bet Indian visitors to the US are scrutinized for possibly taking tech jobs illegally, but when we go over there, we are forbidden from possibly engaging in any social work!

Anyway, the form was signed and the visa was issued shortly. There was something strange and ironic about it all; I suspect that may be the theme for the whole trip.


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