Thursday, January 10, 2013

Passport renewal - fatal mistake by the Department of Immigration Sri Lanka

I was supposed to fly back to Japan on 6th of January, 2013. But there was a problem with my passport and I had to delay the trip by another week. 

This is what happened. 

My passport was supposed to expire in June 2013. Since I would be in Japan when it expires, I thought of getting a new passport when I came to Sri Lanka in December 2012. My Japanese VISA is in the old passport, but that is alright. As long as I traveled with both my old passport and the new one, I won't be having any problem. 

BTW, it would have cost me a lot of money in JPY if I got it done via the Sri Lankan Embassy in Japan. 

Only recently (even after getting my new passport) I found out that you cannot leave the country with a passport that expires within the next 6 months! I didn't know that. Does everybody else knows this? I think we should be informed of this when we enter the country.

Anyways, I got my new passport and I checked whether there was any reference to the old passport in the new passport. Sure enough. In the amendments page, it said that my old passport number was Mxxxxxx and there was a stamp on the first page of the old passport saying that a new passport has been issued. I thought everything is OK and I just glanced through the new passport without thoroughly checking if everything else was in order. (My only concern was that the VISA was on the old passport and a way to prove that both passports are mine.) 

And THAT was my mistake. I didn't check for anything else. I didn't think anything could go wrong. After all, all my details were already in their system, right? How wrong I was!

There was a problem with the name that was printed on my new passport. The old passport had my whole name printed on it, but the new passport was missing the first two names. (Well, they are not my first or middle names. They are family names. The surname was clearly printed on its designated place. Family names and surnames are different.)

The immigration official checked what the name in the system was. It had the whole name. Even the application form I filled for getting the passport (which they returned with the new passport) clearly contains the full name as well. But some idiot at the passport office thought that the family names were not needed anymore and omitted them. It's unbelievable how this could even happen. I mean, why does anyone has to do data entry right from the scratch when all the data is already in the system? Was it a bug in the software? Then it would be very commonplace, hence it cannot be a bug in the software. 

Anyways...I got it fixed from the Immigration Office. They even charged me Rs. 500 to get it fixed even though it was clearly their fault. I really didn't force them enough to get it done free of charge. I just wanted to bail out of that wretched place ASAP. Passport office is like hell. People are not treated well. They scold at us. I didn't want any more trouble.

The occupation that was written in the old passport was "student" because I got it about 10 years ago. I wanted to put "Engineer" in the new passport. I had a letter from the office, but they said that it does not count as an official document. I had to present them with a degree certificate or something of that significance. I didn't take mine with me the first time, so I had to leave that cell empty when I got my new passport. This time I took the certificate and managed to amend "Electronic and Telecommunication Engineer" as my occupation.

Anyways, finally got my passport fixed. Then it was time to get the two tickets reissued. (Obviously, I did not let my wife fly alone and wait in Japan until I arrived.) So two tickets needed to be reissued. Both of us had to pay the date change free. I had to pay a penalty for mine, because my ticket was purchased from Japan and it was only valid for 2 weeks. Otherwise I had to pay more. But we appealed to the ticketing agency in Japan via Sri Lankan officials and they agreed to waive off the penalty because it was not actually my fault. Phew! Otherwise I would have had to pay an extra LKR 45,000 worth of penalty fee. 0_o

I could change the flight to Wednesday, but there was no point. I would only go to work on Friday and then it would be another 3 day long weekend. So we decided to go on Saturday (actually at 23:59hrs) and land on the next day. Then we would have an extra day to rest.

Anyways, what's done is done. It cost me about LKR 17,000 extra. But it would have cost me the same if I took 3 weeks' vacation originally. My ticket was only cheaper because I got it for 2 weeks fixed. Next ticketing class (still economy) would have cost me about the same amount extra. But sure enough, I had to waste about two days to get things straight.

But a good lesson learned. Always check the contents of the documents. Who would expect the Department of immigration to make such a stupid mistake? It's not a typo you know.

Now let's hope nothing would go wrong on Saturday. :D


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