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Sunday, August 3, 2014

India's New Visa Contractor Stole My $170 ... And I Still Don't Have A Valid Visa!


I have always wanted to travel to India, but as a result of a potentially life threatening medical condition that is exacerbated by stress, I decided to visit Dharamsala later this year to learn about Buddhism (and forgiveness) and study yoga full-time. At least that was the plan until I applied and paid ($200) for a valid visa ... which I have yet to receive.

I bought my ticket to travel to India after finding a reasonable roundtrip airfare ($1100), then purchased my wife’s ticket ($1700) so that she can visit during the Christmas holidays. Visas to travel to India are contracted out to a new contractor (effective July 2014), Cox Kings Global Services USA, LLC(CKGS), and their processes and website are not easy to navigate, even for someone with a fairly high IQ. Be prepared for confusion, difficulty obtaining your visa, and wasted time and money at least based on my horrible experience. Here is what happened …

I followed the detailed directions on the CKGS website and submitted all required documentation, paying $150 for the (10-year - available only to US Citizens) visa, $20 in processing fees to CKGS, and $25 to FedEx to get my passport and documents to Houston and back for a grand total of nearly $200. A week later I received a message from CKGS stating that 1) I did not sign under the photo on page 1 of my application (which was true in that it was neither obvious nor included in the instructions) and 2) I did not include the "additional particulars form" (which I had in-fact submitted with my package) ... not a good start!
Signature Required On Page 1 Of Visa Application

Here is the email I received from CKGS:
-----------------------------------------
From: <noreply.usa@ckgs.com>
Date: Monday, July 14, 2014 at 2:12 PM
To: CombatCritic
Subject: Incomplete Application

Dear CombatCritic ,

The following Documents are incomplete: We are not able to continue processing your application due to is missing; signature on the first page of the application form right under the picture, anf the additional particulars form which can be found on our website (in.ckgs.us). Please sent the required to our Houston Center. Thank you.

Regards,
CKGS

------------------------------------------

I quickly submitted the signed page and the same "additional particulars" form I originally submitted with my application to the email address provided by CKGS:

From: CombatCritic
Date: Thursday, July 17, 2014 at 10:52 AM
To: <pad.hou@ckgs.com>
Subject: In Regard To Your Email Indicating My Incomplete Application

Cox Kings Global Services USA, LLC
1001 Texas Avenue, Suite 550
Binz Building
Houston, TX 77002
7/17/14
To Whom It May Concern:

In reference to my India Tourist Visa (Application Number application, I am providing the required signature on page 1 (under the photo) and the additional particulars page (which was provided with my original application, but was indicated as missing by CKGS), attached, as instructed by your staff in a phone call earlier today.

Please process and approve my visa at your earliest convenience.

Thank you!

Respectfully,

CombatCritic                                                   

Attachments –
1.     Signature page
2.     Additional Particulars Page

---------------------------

I received confirmation that my visa was being processed and a little over a week later I received my passport in the mail only to find that the visa was for just 6 months, not the 120 months I had paid for! In-fact, the expiration date of my visa was A FULL MONTH BEFORE MY SCHEDULED RETURN, making it completely useless!

I sent a very polite email to CKGS informing them of the discrepancy:
-----------------------------------
From: CombatCritic

Sent: 01 August 2014 20:52

To: PAD HOUSTON

Cc: fasttrack.usa@ckgs.comenquiriesusa@ckgs.com
Subject: In Regard To My Visa Application - INCORRECT VISA RECIEVED (6-MONTH, NOT 120-MONTH)

Greetings,

I received my visa yesterday. Thank you for the quick turnaround.

Unfortunately, I applied and paid for a 120 month visa ($150 + processing fees = $170), BUT I RECEIVED A 6-MONTH VISA WHICH WILL EXPIRE BEFORE I AM SCHEDULED TO RETURN TO THE USA. Please tell me how you will resolve this situation as soon as possible so I can continue making my travel plans. I have neither contacted the Consulate or Embassy of India regarding this situation nor the US State Department and would appreciate a quick resolution, without further expenditure by me, because of this unfortunate mistake made while processing my visa.

Please contact me by email or phone at your earliest convenience so that I can secure the 120-month visa applied and paid for.

Thank you,

CombatCritic


-------------------------------------

This is the totally unacceptable response I received from CKGS:

-------------------------------

Dear Sir,

Sorry for the inconvenience caused to you.

The Visa issuance/rejection is sovereign right of a Nation and is not open to any discussions. Your Visa has been issued after due process, and this is to inform you that in this case you won't get the refund of the rest amount. And if you want to extend your stay in India you can contact FRRO for extension.

We highly appreciate your co-operation.

Thanks & Regards,

Rehana.S

A Cox and Kings Company

---------------------------------------------

Now that CKGS had made it clear that they neither cared about my concerns nor were they going to make things right, it was time to take my grievance to the next higher level … The Embassy of India’s Consulate Services in Washington DC:

---------------------------

Greetings,


I applied for a 10-year, multiple entry visa last month (application and additional particulars form attached) through CKGS in Houston, paying $170 ($150 + processing fees = $170) as required via money order. When I received my visa via FedEx two days ago, I noticed that the visa was only for 6 monthsexpiring a month before my scheduled return to the USA. I paid an additional $90 for the 10-year visa and, being a retired US military officer, do not understand why I only received a 6 month visa when I paid for a 10 year visa ($200 total including FedEx charges).


… Devona at CKGS in Houston, Texas stated that “the consulate decided to only grant … a 6 month visa”, so I am contacting you to find out what happened so that I might resume making my travel plans to your historic and beautiful country.


Beside being a retired US Air Force officer, I am a food and travel critic with a popular blog, http://www.combatcritic.com, and wish to travel to India to see the sights, study Buddhism, Hinduism, and yoga, volunteer in Dharamsala to help those less fortunate than me, and write about my experiences. I am also a Yelp Elite member and TripAdvisor Top Contributor, having many fans who will be following my journey and hope that they (and I) will not be disappointed by an unfortunate and unexpected curtailment of my travel plans.


Please help me resolve this issue without any additional expense as I followed all of the rules required in acquiring the visa and see no reason why my visa was shortened, particularly without refunding the additional $90 I paid (CKGS). I am sure that there must have been some type of error and respectfully ask you to assist me in resolving this mistake and acquiring the 10 year visa I paid for without additional unnecessary expenditures. I hope that we can resolve this unfortunate situation without delay.


Thank you in advance for your assistance.


Very Respectfully,

CombatCritic

--------------------------------------

The Embassy of India states ontheir website that visa issues will be responded to in “1-3 working days”, having been submitted on August 2nd, 2014 and 10 days later I still had received no response.

I then filed a formal complaint on India's                         PORTAL FOR PUBLIC GRIEVANCE - Department of Administrative Reforms & Public Grievances:
---------------------
Greetings,                                                               August 10, 2014

I have a potentially life threatening condition exacerbated by stress and planned to travel to India ... not only to see the sights, but to study religion and yoga in order to prolong my life. I applied for a 10-year, multiple entry visa last month (application and additional particulars form attached) through CKGS in Houston, paying $170 ($150 + processing fees = $170) as required via money order. When I received my visa via FedEx two days ago, I noticed that the visa was only for 6 months, expiring a month before my scheduled return to the USA. I paid an additional $90 for the 10-year visa and, being a retired US military officer in particular, do not understand why I only received a 6 month visa when I paid for a 10 year visa ($200 total including FedEx charges).

Devona at CKGS in Houston, Texas stated that “the consulate decided to only grant … a 6 month visa” and that I am not entitled to a refund, so I am contacting you to find out what happened so that I might resume making my travel plans to your historic and beautiful country.

Beside being a retired US Air Force officer, I am a food and travel critic with a popular blog, CombatCritic's TravelValue eZine (where you can read the whole story), and wish to travel to India to see the sights, study Buddhism, Hinduism, and yoga, volunteer in Dharamsala to help those less fortunate than me, and write about my experiences. I am also a Yelp Elite member and TripAdvisor Top Contributor, having many fans who will be following my journey and hope that they (and I) will not be disappointed by an unfortunate and unexpected curtailment of my travel plans.

Please help me resolve this issue without any additional expense as I followed all of the rules required in acquiring the visa and see no reason why my visa was shortened, particularly without refunding the additional $90 I paid. As an upstanding, law-abiding citizen, I am sure that there must have been some type of error in processing my visa and respectfully ask you to assist me in resolving this mistake and acquiring the 10 year visa I paid for without additional unnecessary expenditures. I hope that we can resolve this unfortunate situation without delay.

We have spent $3000 on airfare and $200 on a useless visa so far and hesitate to spend another dollar or make additional travel plans until this issue is resolved. If we do not receive a satisfactory resolution (very) soon, we will be forced to change our tickets and travel to a country that treats tourists with compassion, dignity, and respect.

As states, I submitted an email complaint to the Embassy of India's Consular Department over one week ago, but even though they promise a reply "within 3 working days", I have received no indication that they intend to intervene on my behalf. I am also contacting the Ministry of Tourism to let them know what is happening.

Thank you in advance for your assistance.

Very Respectfully, 

Chris Sorrentino, LtCol, USAF (Ret)

--------------------------

I also informed the US State Department about the scam, hoping that MY GOVERNMENT is interested in a US citizen whom is being mistreated and abused by another nation's government:


Greetings,

I filed a grievance with the Embassy of India in Washington DC (8/2/2014) as well as the Department of Administrative Reforms & Public Grievances (below - 8/10/2014) regarding my problems obtaining a valid visa through Cox Kings Global Services USA, LLC (India’s US visa contractor - CKGS - Houston, Texas). After asking them nicely to provide the 10-year visa I paid for or refund the money ($170 + $25 postage) I paid, CKGS failed to resolve my visa dilemma to my satisfaction, stating (in so many words) we’re a sovereign nation, can do as we please, you won’t get a refund, and there’s nothing you can do about it”. You can read the whole story on my blog http://www.CombatCritic.com

I am hoping that the US State Department might be interested in knowing how India’s contractor (CKGS) is treating US Citizens, having spent $2.4 billion in India in 2011 alone. With the tourism industry being the fourth largest source of revenue for their nation, I would think that tourists would be treated better than I have been since starting the visa process. 

Here is the grievance:

Grievance Status

Print || Logout
Status as on 10 Aug 2014
Registration Number:
Name Of Complainant:
Date of Receipt:10 Aug 2014
Received by:Ministry of External Affairs
Officer name:Shri Muktesh Kumar Pardeshi
Officer Designation:Joint Secretary PSP & CPO
Contact Address:CPV Division,
Patiala House Annexe,
Tilak Marg, New Delhi110001
Contact Number:23387013
e-mail:jscpo@mea.gov.in
Grievance Description:Greetings, I have a potentially life threatening condition exacerbated by stress and planned to travel to India not only to see the sights, but to study religion and yoga in order to prolong my life. I applied for a 10-year, multiple entry visa last month (application and additional particulars form attached) through CKGS in Houston, paying $170 ($150 + processing fees = $170) as required via money order. When I received my visa via FedEx two days ago, I noticed that the visa was only for 6 months, expiring a month before my scheduled return. I paid an additional $90 for the 10-year visa and, being a retired US military officer in particular, do not understand why I only received a 6 month visa when I paid for a 10 year visa ($200 total including FedEx charges).

Devona at CKGS in Houston, Texas stated that “the consulate decided to only grant … a 6 month visa” and that I am not entitled to a refund, so I am contacting you to find out what happened so that I might resume making my travel plans to your historic and beautiful country.

Beside being a retired US Air Force officer, I am a food and travel critic with a popular blog, http://www.combatcritic.com (where you can read the whole story), and wish to travel to India to see the sights, study Buddhism, Hinduism, and yoga, volunteer in Dharamsala to help those less fortunate than me, and write about my experiences. I am also a Yelp Elite member and TripAdvisor Top Contributor, having many fans who will be following my journey and hope that they (and I) will not be disappointed by an unfortunate and unexpected curtailment of my travel plans.

Please help me resolve this issue without any additional expense as I followed all of the rules required in acquiring the visa and see no reason why my visa was shortened, particularly without refunding the additional $90 I paid. I am sure that there must have been some type of error and respectfully ask you to assist me in resolving this mistake and acquiring the 10 year visa I paid for without additional unnecessary expenditures. I hope that we can resolve this unfortunate situation without delay.

We have spent $3000 on airfare and $200 on a useless visa so far and hesitate to spend another dollar or make additional travel plans until this issue is resolved. If we do not receive a satisfactory resolution soon, we will be forced to change our tickets and travel to a country that treats tourists with compassion, dignity, and respect.

I submitted an email complaint to the Embassy of India's Consular Department over one week ago, but even though they promise a reply "within 3 working days", I have received no indication that they intend to intervene on my behalf. I am also contacting the Ministry of Tourism to let them know what is happening.

Thank you in advance for your assistance.

Very Respectfully,

CombatCritic
Current Status:RECEIVED THE GRIEVANCE

I hope that my grievance will be addressed by the government of India as soon as possible and would appreciate any assistance my government (Department of State) can offer in this matter. If you like, I will keep you informed regarding the progress (or lack thereof) in my case. I hope that I can continue my plans to travel to India. Otherwise, I will be forced to travel to a nation that better appreciates tourists and our hard earned money.

Thank you.
--------------------------------

Having heard nothing ... zip ... nada from either India's embassy, Ministry of Tourism, or Department of Administrative Reforms & Public Grievances after filing my grievances, I had to assume that they were either as  incompetent and unethical as CKGS or they simply did not care. I finally located a contact at India's Houston Consulate where my visa was incorrectly processed, so I decided to give them one more chance to make things right, contacting the Vice Consul (Visa), Mr. Rakesh Sharma:
Mr. Rakesh SharmaVice Consul (Visa)Consulate of India – Houston 
Dear Honorable Vice Consul Sharma,
I have always wanted to travel to India, but as a result of a potentially life threatening medical condition that is exacerbated by stress, I decided to visit Dharamsala later this year to learn about Hinduism and Buddhism (and forgiveness), study yoga full-time, and volunteer to help those less fortunate than me. At least that was the plan until I applied and paid ($200) for a valid visa ... which I have yet to receive. I bought my ticket to travel to India after finding a reasonable roundtrip airfare ($1100), then purchased my wife’s ticket ($1700) so that she can visit during the Christmas holidays. Cox Kings Global Services USA, LLC’s (CKGS) processes and website are not easy to navigate, even for someone with a fairly high IQ. I followed the detailed directions on the CKGS website and submitted all required documentation, paying $150 for the (10-year - available only to US Citizens) visa, $20 in processing fees to CKGS, and $25 to FedEx to get my passport and documents to Houston and back for a grand total of nearly $200.
 I received confirmation that my visa was being processed and a little over a week later I received my passport in the mail only to find that the visa was for just 6 months, not the 120 months I had paid for. In-fact, the expiration date of my visa was A FULL MONTH BEFORE MY SCHEDULED RETURN, making it completely useless.
 I sent a very polite email to CKGS informing them of the discrepancy:
 From: CombatCritic
Sent: 01 August 2014 20:52
To: PAD HOUSTON
Cc: fasttrack.usa@ckgs.comenquiriesusa@ckgs.com Subject: In Regard To My Visa Application - INCORRECT VISA RECIEVED (6-MONTH, NOT 120-MONTH)
 Greetings,
 I received my visa yesterday. Thank you for the quick turnaround.
 Unfortunately, I applied and paid for a 120 month visa ($150 + processing fees = $170), BUT I RECEIVED A 6-MONTH VISA WHICH WILL EXPIRE BEFORE I AM SCHEDULED TO RETURN TO THE USA. Please tell me how you will resolve this situation as soon as possible so I can continue making my travel plans. I have neither contacted the Consulate or Embassy of India regarding this situation nor the US State Department and would appreciate a quick resolution, without further expenditure by me, because of this unfortunate mistake made while processing my visa.
 Please contact me by email or phone at your earliest convenience so that I can secure the 120-month visa applied and paid for.
 Thank you,
 This is the totally unacceptable response I received from CKGS:
 Dear Sir,
 Sorry for the inconvenience caused to you.
 The Visa issuance/rejection is sovereign right of a Nation and is not open to any discussions. Your Visa has been issued after due process, and this is to inform you that in this case you won't get the refund of the rest amount.
 We highly appreciate your co-operation.
 Thanks & Regards,
 Rehana.S
 http://www.in.ckgs.usA Cox and Kings Company
 Now that CKGS had made it clear that they neither cared about my concerns nor were they going to make things right, it is time to take my grievance to the next higher level. Please help me resolve this issue without any additional expense as I followed all of the rules required in acquiring the visa and see no reason why my visa was shortened, particularly without refunding the additional $90 I paid (CKGS). I am sure that there must have been some type of error and respectfully ask you to assist me in resolving this mistake and acquiring the 10-year visa I paid for without additional unnecessary expenditures. After all, I am a retired military officer with a top-secret security clearance and a law-abiding citizen, not a criminal or social misfit, and do not understand why my visa was denied.
 I am very ill and the stress of this situation is weighing heavy on my mind, keeping me awake at night and causing unnecessary stress instead of relieving stress as vacations should do. I am a little over two months away from my scheduled departure yet still do not have a valid visa even after paying $200 to get one.
 For a nation built on the fundamentals of Buddhism and Hinduism, including compassion for all living things and the cessation of suffering, your contractor (CKGS) leaves a lot to be desired. All I know is that my travel date is quickly approaching, I still do not have a valid visa, and time is running out to complete my travel plans and ensure a relatively stress-free trip.
 Please tell me what I have to do to get a valid visa so I can resume making plans to visit India. If this is not resolved soon, we will have to try to change our itinerary and travel to another country. I hope that we can resolve this unfortunate situation without delay.
 Thank you in advance for your assistance.
 Very Respectfully, 
CombatCritic
For a nation built on the fundamentals of Buddhism and Hinduism, including compassion for all living things and the cessation of suffering, their contractor (CKGS) leaves a lot to be desired. Will the Government of India DO THE RIGHT THING and grant me the 120 month visa I paid for or will they treat me with the indignity and disrespect I have endured from CKGS? Only time will tell.

All I know is that my travel date is quickly approaching, I still do not have a valid visa, and time is running out to complete my travel plans and ensure a relatively stress-free trip. I am seriously considering changing my plans and traveling to a nation where they appreciate tourist's dollars and treat people with dignity and respect, but our tickets are non-refundable and I am not looking forward to the added stress and expense of having to change our tickets and plans at this late date.

I have not yet learned to forgive and will pursue this issue relentlessly until I am satisfied with the response from the Embassy/Consulate of India, Department of Administrative Reforms and Public Grievances, Ministry of Tourism, CKGS, and/or the US State Department. This dilemma has only caused me more unneeded stress, wasted time and money, and caused grief instead of helping to relieve it. I will keep you posted and update this post as details change, for the positive or otherwise.

Namaste

CombatCritic

UPDATE: After being ignored by CKGS, the Embassy of India in Washington DC, and the Official Grievance Portal of the Government of India, I was finally able to locate and contact the Vice Consul for Visa Services in Houston, Texas where my visa was incorrectly processed.

I was contacted by phone and email and told that there was in-fact a mistake in processing my visa and told to send my passport (at my own expense - another $50 out-of-pocket) directly to his office for processing. I did as I was instructed and a week later I had my 10-year, multiple entry visa in-hand ... FINALLY!

After weeks of stress, sleepless nights, and well over $250 in expenditures, I received the visa I paid for and was able to continue planning my journey. 

My only question is: Why was Cox Kings Global Services not able to remedy this situation

Recommendation: If Cox Kings Global Services refuses to assist with visa problems, CONTACT THE CONSULATE DIRECTLY AND PROMPTLY

CombatCritic Gives Cox Kings Global Services 1 Bomb Out of 10 ... More Bombs Are Better!

Follow CombatCritic On Yelp (An Elite '14/'15 Member) And  TripAdvisor ("Top Contributor") Where You Can Read His Latest Reviews, Try His Favorite Recipes, And More!

Key Words: India, visa, government, Cox Kings Global Services, CKGS, consulate, embassy, travel, value, CombatCritic, TravelValue, integrity, compassion, dignity, respect, tourist, tourism, Yelp, TripAdvisor, trip, advisor

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