Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Putting the Portal in Portugal

I'm engaged in my annual ritual of applying for a Schengen Visa. Last year or so, the Schengen countries decided that they will not issue a visa for longer than one year (or so I was told), so the comfort of a multi-year visa in which I had basked was rudely taken away.

Anyway, my first call of entry on this new visa will be Portugal. It's almost enough to make me consider throwing in a weekend in Germany beforehand, just to simplify visa processing. In order:

  • There does not appear to be a standard portal for Portuguese visas.
  • I called the consulate in Providence. I was forwarded to their answering machine. The answering machine replied with an error saying it was not accepting messages. The call went into an infinite forwarding loop.
  • I called the embassy in Washington. I was forwarded to their answering machine. The machine gave me an error signal.
  • I called the consulate in New York. The number had been disconnected with no forwarding number.
  • I finally found a page for the Providence consulate. It:
    • is virtually unreadable in Firefox;
    • is even more unreadable in Konqueror;
    • is entirely in Portuguese.

On this site I finally found a visa application form. It is solely in Portuguese.

Driven to despair, I visited my old friends, the Germans. Happily, the German consulate portal has a nice Web interface with the application form available in multiple languages, including English, and the boxes seem to match up (my loose translation of the Portuguese in some of the boxes corresponds to the English versions). For those I cannot translate, I'm making my best guess based on position.

A word of advice to the Schengen countries. You seem to be worried about population levels, brain-drains, competition, etc. You don't make yourself any more attractive by making it singularly hard for people to visit. This goes doubly for Portugal, which offers tons of information on tourism but none on how to get there.

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