Thoughts and Observations of my experience


Monday Market ELF Adventure                    

 #1     August 18, 2017


The Visa

How do you get a visa to be an ELF in Tajikistan?


To get our visas we encountered a couple of challenges and several surprises. Tajikistan, the poorest of the former Soviet republics, surprisingly, has an online visa applications system and as is often the case when filling out online forms, there are some seemingly illogical choices. Getting stuck at "visa type" was the first challenge for me. After trying all the logical visa types like humanitarian, official, or maybe diplomatic, I had to take a screen shot of the choices and send it to the embassy in Dushanbe for advice. It turns out that I not only had to apply for a business visa, but the subcategory choice was "conference." I don’t think I will be at a conference for 10 months, but that is what my visa says. My husband Tim’s visa challenge was that he was invited by me to be my dependent, not invited by the government, so he had to submit documents that tied him to me. When we left for the pre-departure orientation in D.C. last month, we still had no definitive answer regarding the category of visa for which Tim should apply. The surprises came at the Tajikistan embassy where we had to get our visas issued and stamped in our passports. Surprise number one was that it didn’t take five days as I had been told twice when I called the embassy. The second surprise was that once my visa was approved and my passport stamped, Tim’s visa got straightened out quickly and easily. Lastly, the visa duration and cost was a huge surprise. I had applied for an 11-month visa and Tim had applied for a 7-month visa. I didn’t get what I applied for, but Tim did. We knew that we had to pay with money orders and initially, we each got a $160 money order for 3-month, multiple entry visas. Then, when they were processing Tim’s visa, which begins in January-2 months after my initial visa expires-they told him to get another money order! Yes, they gave me a 3-month visa which I will have to renew multiple times in-country and they gave Tim a 7-month visa which will cover all of his time in Tajikistan. The first 3-month portion cost $160 and the additional 4-month portion was only $100!

Because the day we went to the embassy was a mid-July scorcher we planned to start early and hoped to end quickly. We arrived at 9 am, the official opening time for the Consular Section; however, we learned that official opening time and real opening time are not always the same thing, so we got coffee and waited. The people at the embassy were very nice and except that we got to spend a lot of time in a small room, it was an easy process for both of us to get our passports stamped with visas. Tim just got a longer one, and one covering a time period when his host (me) does not yet have permission to be in the country. Sometimes bureaucracies defy logic. In November I will tell you what it is like extend a visa in Dushanbe. I am curious to find out if it will be easier or more challenging than the initial visa experience.

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