One of the perennial frustrations of life as an ex-pat, revolves around obtaining visas or residency permits for your country of choice. Without such a document you just can’t work or live there. In some places they are easy to obtain, in others the process is a nightmare.
In Egypt, the standard visa is for six months and costs about $15. In Namibia, 30 day tourist visas are issued free, on arrival. Not so for an Azerbaijan tourist visa, where they must be applied for in person, from the Azerbaijan Visa Section in London and will cost you 55 Pounds.
Here are the visa requirements for UK citizens:
– One visa application form
– One recent passport size photograph glued to the application form
– Valid passport (must be valid for at least three months after the expiry date of the Azerbaijani visa)
– Letter of Invitation (one of the following):
a) Invitation from an Azerbaijani company
b) Invitation from a foreign company based in Azerbaijan
c) Letter from a travel agency confirming your accommodation
d) Hotel reservation confirmation
e) Invitation from an Azerbaijani citizen, accompanied by a photocopy of his/her passport (pages 2-5) or national identification card (both sides).
The requirement to produce a letter of invitation from an Azeri travel agency or company is of course the big stumbling block, if you wish to travel independently.
Critics suggest that the cost and difficulty of obtaining a visa to visit Azerbaijan, is one reason for the slow growth and development of the tourist industry. This has become a real issue since Azerbaijan won the 2011 Eurovision Song Contest and can guarantee a substantial uplift in the numbers of people wishing to visiting the country in 2012. By the way, the number of international tourists staying in Azerbaijan during 2010 was only 17,000 [slightly less than the number of people who visit the Eiffel Tower in Paris, every day]. http://www.azstat.org/statinfo/consumermarket/en/tur_en.shtml
To my mind however, the frustrations involved in obtaining a visa to visit Azerbaijan, pale into insignificance when compared with those faced by Azeris wanting to go on holiday to the UK. According to the UK Embassy site, it is a “simple six – stage process[?]… http://ukinazerbaijan.fco.gov.uk/en/visiting-uk/visas/
Here it is:
- Prepare your application
- Make your application online through www.visa4uk.fco.gov.uk
- Make an appointment online to give your biometrics and submit your application
- Visit the British Embassy in Baku
- Wait for a decision
- Collect your passport
All applicants must have a finger scan as part of the application process. You can imagine the fuss that UK citizens would make, if the Azerbaijani Embassy required that of British applicants!
When you visit the Visa section, you will be required to show the following:
- Address in the UK
- E-mail Address
In the UK, the imposition of these stringent criteria have had a real impact on the domestic tourism industry. Since visas for South African citizens visiting the UK were introduced in March 2009, there has been a 9% drop in the number of tourist visiting from that country. By comparison, the visa requirement for visitors from Taiwan was dropped the same year, leading to an increase in visitor number by 40%.
As someone who loves international travel, I am all for a simple, straightforward and cheap visa application processes and would suggest that before anyone from the UK starts complaining about how difficult and expensive the process is, they should consider the difficulties faced my millions of potential tourists to the UK who don’t bother coming because of the cost and logistical difficulties.