In the last couple of weeks I’ve had to travel to two different countries for work related activities. I love traveling, but at the same time it does take some preparation each time I do, which is fine but what continues to be a major issue is the visa process.
More recently I traveled to Croatia for a sports tournament together with 14 colleagues who are all part of the soccer team of the institution I work for. Prior to traveling our group had to apply for visas at the Croatian embassy. Being the person responsible to coordinate this activity I also had to get all the documentation processed and ready for the embassy. That process took me almost one whole week. To get to the point the whole embassy experience turned into a major waste of time and frustration as the Croatian Consul was a complete bureaucrat.
After we submitted all our documents, the embassy reviewed them and then replied that there were some discrepancies which made it impossible to issue us visas also due to the short time available to process them! First of all I have to accept the fact that we had a little over a week of time to get our visas before departure date, but still that was not the major hang-up since the embassy had told use they could process them in two days.
The issue regarded about four of the applications which according to the embassy had discrepancies. These discrepancies, which I soon figured out had to do with the incorrect date format used on the forms for our birthdays. To explain what had happened, our colleagues in Croatia had mistakenly filled out the required forms using the American date format instead of the European one. Basically, the month was placed in front of the day, instead of the usual date-month-year format. To my dismay and that of the entire team, this turned out into a major ”obstacle” as the embassy would not accept our documentation and thus issue no visas.
The whole mess had me going to the embassy everyday. First on Monday, then on Tuesday, Wednesday and even on Thursday, which was the last attempt before our departure latter that night. The Croatian Consul seemed very understanding and supportive when talking with him. I even got his cell number and talked several times in order to follow up on the issue while at work.
We did all we could to push the embassy to give us the visas in time but on the last day at the embassy it all came down to the Consul admitting to me that ”his hands were tied” and that now it was all up to the Croatian Ministry of Interior. And that is what we did. We had our Croatian colleagues intervene to get approval for our visas.
We would later receive our visas at the Croatian border early morning on Friday as we drove there only with our passports and a verbal confirmation by our colleagues that everything was going to be OK.
Anyway that was only part of the adventure that we had to go through till we got to our desired destination. Thankfully we got the Croatian visas at the border as foreseen, and there were no major delays with that process as the border authorities had been notified and received the authorization for our visas. All we needed to do was submit our passports so that they could be stamped with a visa and then were on our way.
In closing, I continue to stress the need for Albanians to have greater access and freedom of movement as our neighbor countries have or are receiving from the EU. I believe that I do not speak only for myself that we are tired of wasting endless time waiting to get a visa in some bureaucratic embassy in Tirana.