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A Short Guide to Collecting your Iranian Travel Visa in London

After two visits to the Iranian consulate in London's Kensington, I was asked if I might share my experience, so that others might be more prepared than me.

So here's a quick 'cheat-sheet' for fellow tourists and business travelers. I was behind Sky's foreign correspondent and like me, he was equally baffled.

 Firstly it's highly disorganised from a European perspective, so be prepared for a very hot and long wait. It's a small room for the numbers of people involved on any one day and very overcrowded and over-heated; temperature and emotions both.

1) Arrive at least 30 minutes before the 2 pm start (Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays) to join the long queue in the street where they will give you a ticket number.

Do make sure, unlike me, that the day you choose is not a national Iranian holiday, one that you may not know about and indeed may not be published or you will be disappointed to find the visa section closed. Don't expect anyone official to help you; the counter-staff, I observed have remarkably short fuses.  You'll find no shortage of helpful fellow-travelers; some of whom may have been there before, who can guide you in the the right direction and given the waiting-time, may become friends for life!

2) When you arrive in the waiting room and are lucky enough to find a seat, listen closely for that number being called, as the electronic board supposed to display who is next, is either broken or simply not used.

There's a neat trick, I discovered that may catch-out the unwary. My ticket number was 726 but they were only calling-out the last two numbers that afternoon; i.e. 26. Also; they had started by handing-out tickets starting with 900, which ran-out and then switched to 700 out of sequence. By not actually telling anyone this was the case, an extra element of confusion was added to the exercise.

 3) Go to window #3 (if that's the starting-point counter in use that afternoon) and hand over your completed visa application, letter of invitation, two photos and your passport. The visa agent will check these and counter-sign sign your application.

 4) Now join the queue for the cashier at window #1 to pay £170 in cash (it may change without notice as it's linked to the $US) and hand over your passport and completed paperwork. He will give you a pink form receipt and a date to return and collect your passport.

5) If like me you can't come back to London on that given date and join the queue all over again, you can ask them to post your passport back to you via post-office special delivery. If that's the case, then now...

6) Join the queue for the another cashier counter outside the room for 'Other consular matters' (You can't miss it as this is where everyone with a problem goes and it's very animated)

7) Ask the person behind the window for a special delivery envelope for your passport. Give her £8.

 8) Complete your address on the front of the envelope and rejoin the queue back to the passport cashier at window #1

 9) Give him the envelope and make quite sure he puts it with your passport and not someone else's. I speak from experience, when working for the Foreign Office, of having had another person's visa glued in my passport in the past when seeking a Saudi visa; a very similar experience and process.

 10) Offer a short prayer they don't lose your passport and that they will promptly post it back to you the following week, ' As advertised'.

Final advice. Take a good book a black biro, PokemonGo perhaps, a sense of humor and patience. A bottle of water may be a good idea and an umbrella if you are caught queuing in the street in the rain as there is nowhere to shelter.

You might want to take a toilet-stop before you arrive as the wait may be a long one.

Don't be surprised if tour groups and agents with handfuls of passports magically appear in front of you. If you have enough money the process can be eased and I listened to one young passport agent who was simply, representing his client with all the paperwork and was too busy to be there. Smile and be patient. It all works out in the end.

 Good luck!

Postscript: I'm pleased to say that my passport arrived by special delivery a week later.

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