Your Visa Has Not Been Granted, Ctd.
After the debacle 10 days ago, resulting in my brother not arriving here in Azerbaijan, I was a little bitter. All of the rumor and hearsay surrounding the sudden change in visa policy here in the country has slowed a little bit, but things are still fluttering about. Since then, I’ve come across a few things to help clarify the situation.
First, a good thing to understand is that the visa policy change is a fairly reasonable policy. Instead of offering visas upon arrival, you have to do it ahead of time. This is what America does for all of it’s foreign arrivals. And it’s pretty standard throughout a lot of countries. This is something most countries would identify as a sound policy for improving security in your country. Any sort of back-check isn’t going to happen at the airport visa desk in the Baku airport. Can’t blame Azerbaijan for this move, really. What you can blame Azerbaijan for is the timing. Springing it as a half-surprise, without any specifics ahead of time, is extremely inconsiderate, almost mean, and certainly disrespectful.
Second, some more hearsay! Through various channels, channels that peddle widely in the distribution of rumor, we’re hearing that the change is a result of some infighting. The most recent iteration says that the State Migration Service was duking it out with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The change in policy requires that foreigners apply and pay for visas at embassies and consulates abroad, extensions of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Visas obtained at the airport here in Baku would be granted by the State Migration Service. In the first case, the money goes to the Ministry. In the second case, it goes to the migration service. So, this was a battle over money, one which the Ministry won. I have no idea how the money trail winds through this labyrinth, but this at least sounds plausible to me.
The third thing I’ll share is a firsthand account, coming to you from an unfortunate Australian traveler attempting to get into Azerbaijan on that Friday. It’s a well-written account, well worth the read:
The Immigration staff take our passports and allow us to collect our checked luggage, then escort us the the airport’s transit hall. They leave us there and disappear, passports and all.
About two hours later, one of them wanders over and asks us for our passports.
Another hour later, someone tells us we have a choice: buy a ticket out of the country or be deported (at the airline’s expense) back to where our flights originated. I ask if Ukraine will even let me back in- I had a single-entry visa and I’d already left the country. They lose the ability to speak english again. And Russian. And Azeri.
Then they ask to see our passports.
There’s a flight to Istanbul leaving in a couple of hours and it’s starting to sound pretty attractive. Another couple- DJs who had been booked for a gig in Baku that night- decide to try and get a flight to Dubai. We ask if we can buy tickets.
“You can buy tickets when you get your passports back.”
“Good, can we have them back then?”
“When you have bought your tickets we will give your passports back.”
That’s all I’ve heard since; more updates to come if I find out something new.