The Iranian Visa Saga

Well hello to everybody out there from Erzurum as we are taking a break from packing up!

Just a quick update as many people are finding it hard to believe Bernard has been classified as a security threat by the Iranian Authorities! Now I know he can be difficult and a complete pain but, seriously, he is not that bad. When they told him (the Iranian consul in Erzurum) he had been refused entry to Iran he did actually start laughing. He honestly thought the consul was having a joke on him (we had been in the embassy so much we were nearly friends).

It seems the ‘official’ reason he was refused concerned the fact he did not have an invite to the country; but then again neither did I and so this explanation does not make sense either. Anyway, we did think of me having a crash course in riding a bike but we thought this may not be such a good idea. Although Bernard did say that knowing the Iranian Authorities they would probably give me a driving license as well if I applied for it.

Anyway, enough and on to the time-frame of the Iranian saga.

  1. First email contact with IranianVIsa.com on 6 September (instant response) shortly after arriving in Athens
  2. Sent completed forms electronically FOR EXPRESS 2-5 day Visa along with passport copies (again) electronically on same day
  3. All details confirmed on 7th> September
  4. Sunday 7th – Paid fee through money transfer (MoneyGram) in Athens as set out in instructions (£125 Euro plus 8 Euro transfer fee)
  5. Emailed Company several times with no response until Monday 15th when they emailed to say they only received 110 Euro and they could not process until full payment received. Emailed them several times with payment receipt numbers etc. No responses
  6. Gave up and transferred another 12 Euro to them on 16th September after email on 15th September QUOTE “Also, if you visit Turkey before coming to Iran you can pay this directly to the bank and collect your visa in one of the consulates in Turkey. (Istanbul/Ankara/Erzerum). Regards, Hamid”
  7. Emailed them numerous occasions as we now have Pakistan and Indian Visas which were issued with minimum of fuss; with no greasing of palms
  8. 21st September – we emailed and sought confirmation whether the VISA could be picked up at ANY Iranian Embassy or should we wait in Athens? QUOTE “Hi Due to public holidays, the code may not be ready by 28 Sep. Will you be able to collect the visa from Athens or do you want to collect it for example in Istanbul? Regards, Hamid”
  9. 23rd September QUOTE – “Hi, We change the consulate to Erzerum. Have you already left Athens? Regards, Hamid”
  10. 24th We confirmed still in Athens but plan to leave 26th and travel to Erzurum
  11. 28th VISA cleared and confirmation sent by email to us – we are in Istanbul by this time. QUOTE: “Pleased to inform you that your visa application has been approved by the Iranian Foreign Ministry and an authorization letter has been transmitted to the Iranian Embassy in Athens. We have requested a copy to be sent to the consulate in Erzerum. Enjoy Visiting Iran! – Hamid
  12. 6 October email them to let them know we are picking up Visas at Erzurum tomorrow
  13. 6 October emailed to let them know nothing at Erzurum
  14. 6 October Hamid said the MFA would re-transmit the code to Erzurum
  15. 8 October a very curt email telling us we would have to reapply as MFA say ‘Athens only’ for the Visa
  16. Email to Hamid on 8th> October – Hello Mr Hamid, You suggested we could pick it up at Erzurum are you now saying we have to pay again when we still have no entry visa? You said in the previous email that you HAD CHANGED the consulate pick up TO ERZURUM. Are you now saying that you have no responsibility for this mess after we have travelled – by road – 2500 kilometers to Erzurum? I assume you will resubmit the details you already have back to the MFA for Erzurum within the 2-5 days express service we have already paid for on our behalf as we still have no VISA for entry. Cathy and Bernard.
  17. 8th October Consul in Erzurum AND HAMID suggested we reapply at Erzurum as it should be straight forward as we have already been cleared by MFA in Tehran.
  18. QUOTE: “If you want, we can ask them to resend the code to Erzerum against paying the consulate change fee.” (as far as everybody was telling us this could not be done?)
  19. Catherine cleared for VISA and Bernard refused at Erzurum. Both forms exactly the same apart from personal details. Consul said ‘No invite” was reason but Cathy also had no invite.

Conclusion

We waited for over three weeks in Athens (very expensive!) and then moved (at THE COMPANIES SUGGESTION) to Erzurum for VISA collection. We have now been in Erzurum for 18 days (cheaper but still a lot of money sitting waiting) as we write this. A couple of Australian lads have been waiting over a month from the same company (hello to Wes and Chris if you read this). Hope your journey is safe and may see you in Australia!

Obviously we do not have any confidence in Mr Hamid (nor his staff) to know their own business. If we had known (and not been actively misled) we would have stayed in Athens or, even flown back to Athens for the VISAs but again, we have now missed this window as well. The company may well claim 2-5 days for a reapplication but even the consulate in Erzurum says “Impossible” to this time scale.

We both feel there is little point in reapplying through IranianVisa.com as we do not have the weather window to wait due to the snow coming and being on a motorcycle. All the best advice (Historical Data on the weather patterns and using local people who know) says the mountain passes will be too dangerous for us to travel with any degree of safety (currently we are about 7500 feet altitude and there would be more altitude to come).

Therefore we leave Erzurum tomorrow and drive the 1000 miles back to Istanbul where we hope to be able to Air Freight to Pakistan.

The company IranianVisa.com have treated us extremely shoddily and have cost us a considerable amount of money and time. They must have no hearts at all. To rub salt into the wound they have asked us to pay them again for a further application. Shame on them.

Update added 2nd November

We took a phone call today from the consul in Tehran to inform us the Iranian Foreign Ministry have now said we can have a VISA issued in Turkey. The only problem is we are in Pakistan!  Sorry but we couldn’t wait due to the weather (which we did say) and our concerns proved to be correct with heavy, heavy snow in the North of Iranian mountains which has caused other bikers to detour!

After Bernard had stopped laughing about the Visa (yes, no, yes) and the several thousand mile detour plus air freight costs to fly over Iran he confessed he was somewhat pleased he is now no longer considered to be a security threat to Iran. I think, though, he misses the notoriety?

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