I had already planned to complain about the cost of getting a British Visa as a Sierra Leonean national when upon arrival at the British High Commission I was informed that prices had been increased because of the exchange rate. I asked the security officer why the website hadn’t been updated to indicate this change and he said sorry ma they are working on it. As of Oct 13th 2009 when I changed my appointment to the 19th Oct the website still had le.970,000 as the fee, and they have now increased it to 1,290,000. British nationals applying for Sierra Leonean visas pay about le.450,000 a fee that is set by Sierra Leone immigration. If you are going to charge such excorbitant prices the least you could do is update your website i'm sure they have enough money for that.
I want to make a recommendation to the SL High Commission (the Ministry of Foreign Affairs) and SL Immigration to in the future develop a policy where they do matching fees with respective Embassies in Sierra Leone. I guess they may be thinking that they don’t wont to deter foreign nationals from coming to SL and that is why the fees are so reasonable but I will say that they should use the same rational the British High Commission uses i.e. high fees cover processing costs, deter undesirables from entering their country, and use the fees raised to pay high commission staff etc. etc.
So the price of the visa was strike 1. The price increase that was not updated on their website was strike 2 please read on for strike 3.
Already fuming at the price increase I was informed that I had to make a photocopy of the 32 pages of my passport. “Why isn’t it on the website that you must photocopy all the pages of your passport?” “sorry ma please ask them when you get inside”.
I walked away from the High Commission determined to find a place to photocopy the documents to make the 12midday processing deadline. I went to two locations in Lumbley that had photocopy on their signboards. Neither of them actually did any photocopying. I had reached my boiling point and my eyes turned read as the steam whistled from by ears.
I finally went to a friend’s office on Wilkinson rd and was able to scan the documents and print them before I headed back to the security post at the British High Commission.
They took my phones and I asked me if I had a camera or USB device. I said I don’t have anything. He said ok good luck and I retorted I don’t need luck. I went through the metal detectors and followed the arrows to the visa/consular section.
There were a handful of people waiting to be processed by two Sierra Leonean…a man and a woman. The man behind the counter says “I recognize u from somewhere” and I said “probably television” and he said “yep on TV”. I asked him why they hadn’t updated their website re the price change and he said that they had…and I said no u have not and he said yes we have and I said NO YOU HAVE NOT. I also asked him why did I have to photocopy all the pages of my passport and he said because the visas are processed in the Gambia.Yes i know they are processed there but why is not on your website and you have to photocopy 32pages of your passport.? I said that was problematic and he said I can complain there is information on the wall and I said or I will. He took my money and my papers and said that I should wait to be finger printed. I sat down and much to my surprise my friend Omar’s dad walks in, also at the high commission for a visa to attend the SLIEPA conference in November.
Some minutes went by and I asked the guy behind the counter if they served lunch. He smiled, “do u wanna buy me lunch”? “No, I just thought that with all the cash u guys have your provided refreshments”. He smiled again, only I was so not joking…my belleh bin don begin fo at.
A little later I get called into a small room where a Salone lady I had seen about town was sitting with my papers in a file. She didn’t ask me anything and just made guttural and nasal noises to herself as she flipped my application pages and typed some info into the computer. . We didn’t exchange any words. She asked me to put my fingers on a biometric scanner much like the one at the airport at JFK. I did as I was told.
Then she told me to look into a camera…and kept repeating I can’t see your eyes I need to see your eyes. I guess my side swept bangs were in the way. Eventually she saw my eyes, took the photograph and told me she was done. I made my exit after she handed me a slip that said that I qualified for premium visa processing service which meant that my visa app would be processed in Freetown and not sent to the Gambia. I am to collect my passport in 2days. Will they or Or wont they?
Should I wait till after I receive my passport to post this blog? Will they not give it to me if I complain on my blog? Well we shall see cause I’m posting right now!!!!