We have 2 difficult Visas to get: Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. Both are complex because neither have Consulates in Australia and you can't get the Visas until 3 months before your visit. Plus the process involves a mountain of documents for each person: application forms, passports, photos, letters from employers, etc.
And it was my responsibility, as the organiser of the 'Stans section of the journey to get the Visas.
Both work on a Letter of Invitation process. Fill out and submit all the forms to the state Foreign Affairs department, they process and determine your eligibility to enter and finally issue a LOI which must be then taken to a Consulate who will then issue the Visa.
In the case of Uzbekistan we had the added complexity that you had to nominate a Consulate at which you would pick up the Visa. The dilema was that we had to allow enough time to be in the one spot long enough to process. Luckily Uzbekistan has a consulate in Bangkok so we organised to pick up our Visas here and hope that the 3-5 day wait will not eventuate.
After a 2 hour trip through peak hour traffic Tony and I arrived with paperwork, 15 passports and a wad of cash. It appears that the Uzbeks have learnt a lot since freeing themselves of the Russian shackles. The process was smooth and only involved a couple of trips to the bank to deposit funds on a pre-prepared bank deposit slip and after a couple of hours presto 1 Visa issue to me, which covers me and 15 others for whom I am responsible. Another 2 hours back to our hotel and a bit of time for work on the cars: washing off the shipping grime, getting the recalcitrant tail lights to work again and starting the packing process.
That leaves us with the Turkmenistan visa. Turkmenistan is one step removed from North Korea in the political stakes. They have a habit of declining visa applications on a random basis and for some classes, up to 50% of applications are declined. If we could not get the TM Visas, the alternatives were to travel through Afghanistan or through Russia and the Ukraine, around the north of the Caspian Sea, again not an appealing exercise.
We have been sweating on the TM authorities to issue the Letters of Invitation. Our documents were completed and submitted in January and today we got, what I will describe as the least worst news that they have accepted 15 of the 16 visa applications. One rejection, Simon who is Tony's navigator for the Stan's leg of the journey. At least all the cars and their owners will get through. The authorities don't give reasons for their rejections. They just issue a simple Rejected Form. So now we have the official LOI issued by the Turkmenistan Foreign Affairs Department we just need to work out where we can get the Visas issued. Simon on the other hand is now beating a path to the TM Consulate in London to see if he can reverse the decision.