Monday, March 23, 2009

Whut in the name of tarnation?

You better believe it's Monday today. I should've seen the writing on the wall when it turned out that the coffee machine was out of order as I rolled into work. That and other small kinds of mishaps flat out pale, however, compared to the horror of having to talk to the Norwegian equivalent of the INS due to some bureaucratic snafu with regards to the imminent arrival of a visiting professor. At least his arrival was imminent prior to the aforementioned snafu. Dude is supposed to arrive here Thursday night, and he applied for his VISA in January, where the duration as well as the starting date of his stay were specified and backed up by the invitation letter. Today he got static from the embassy, telling him that his contact person at the host university had to contact UDI on his behalf in order for the VISA to be issued.

As luck would have it, I am that contact person. Which entailed getting all the information together and calling their "hotline". The first time I called, I was on hold for about ten minutes before some fluke in the system - or an operator - hung up on me. Game over, back to scratch. Their phone service is one of the more sensory-depriving experiences I've been exposed to. Aside from the "Press 1 for English menu" option, and the interruption by some low-budget automated "All our operators are busy at the moment. Please hold." every ~2 minutes, there is absolute silence. No Sixties classics, no 90's elevator music - flat out silence. And the automated douchebag asking you to hold offers no information on the expected time you have to wait, or even the (probably staggering) number of people ahead of you.

The 'Gitmo people ain't got nuthin' on the INS. The first couple of times you call, you quit after ten-max fifteen minutes. At some point you figure out that you don't call these servants of absolute evil for fun, and that the only way to hopefully accomplish your bidness is to bite the bullet and endure the hellish holding period. By the time you actually get to talk to some carbon-based life form (as far as I know anyways), you're so deeply engulfed in Stockholm syndrome/have the Eye of Sauron on you that you forget the fact that you were on hold for - in my case - 40 minutes before you got to talk to anyone.

So was the situation resolved? That's a big, fat no - the person on the line told me that this type of application normally took three months to process, and that she could try to speed it up but she couldn't promise anything.

Funfact: When you apply for these things, you have to get the starting/arrival date approved before they even start to look further at the application. The application was submitted and pre-approved exactly TWO months prior to the arrival date. I don't know precisely who screwed up, but we're left holding the bag. One thing's for sure; the INS people need less meth and more math.


Anders said...

Well, I can understand the INS. Surely a professor from a foreign (rich, industrial) country are just waiting for an oppurtunity to deflect and live illegally on the streets of Norway, supporting himself by odd jobs and petty crimes. You have to agree that at least there is a high risk for this scenario?

Wilhelm said...

..mos def