How We Lost Our Passports at the Japanese Consulate in Houston, TX

Monday, May 1, 2023:

To apply for a Japanese visa, you need to book the tickets for the specified travel date. We booked our tickets to travel to Japan for a travel date of May 26, 2023, from Austin, TX to Tokyo, JP (NRT). We tried to call the Japanese consulate and we could not get to anyone who could answer the phone.

P:S: If you think about it, booking tickets and applying for a visa is not a great customer experience. What if your visa does not arrive on time? This is exactly what happened to us. This is an archaic process. 

Monday, May 8, 2023: 

We applied for an e-Visa. The process was very hard and after a lot of difficulty and spending several hours trying to figure out the website we sent in our e-Visa application. 

P.S: Your website needs a BIG revamp. Please hire someone to fix the user experience. 

Cash Payments Only: Even if your e-Visa is approved, the Japanese Consulate accepts only cash payments. You have to drive another 3 or 6 or 9 hours (based on where you live to make the payment) / or ask someone for a favor to pay cash on your behalf (again a whole set of authorization documents to pay cash on your behalf) for a $6 visa fee.

Tuesday, May 9, 2023

We received an email from the Japanese Consulate that our e-Visa application was incorrect and asked us to withdraw and reapply. We found this process to be extremely confusing.

Thursday, May 11, 2023

We called the Japanese visa hotline and spoke to Ryuki Yoshikawa about the issues we were having with e-Visa. He said that if we are having issues with the e-Visa(which a lot of people have),  we can apply for a visa by shipping our documents along with our original passport. When we asked about multiple entries, he said, in addition, we have to prove our financial ability and asked us to mail in our tax returns. 

Instead of trying to figure out e-visa website which was complicated, we decided to apply for a multiple entry visa so it can make it easier on our future visits. 

We mailed our application along with our original passports, all documents along with a return envelope on May 11, 2023, via UPS Tracking #: 1Z90AF300138592533 to the Japanese Consulate in Houston, TX

Friday, May 12, 2023

The Japanese Consulate received our UPS MAIL on Friday, May 12, 2023. We checked the same on UPS tracking and everything was okay.

Monday, May 15, 2023

We received an email from the Japanese Consulate stating that there was no passport in our application. We were very concerned. We also thought it could be a copy-paste email error.

Tuesday, May 16, 2023

We did not want to take chances. My wife drove down from Austin, TX to the Japanese  Consulate in Houston, TX to find out what was going on about the application. She was informed by the people at the Japanese Consulate that they do not have our passports but showed us all the other documents along with the return envelope we shipped. 

We tried to explain to the officials at the Japanese Consulate in Houston, TX that our passport should be in the original envelope. Losing a passport is not a normal circumstance, and when my wife requested the officials at the Consulate to look for our passport, they were very rude, threw the papers at her face, shut the door, and asked her to get out and apply for a new passport at the Indian Consulate giving us a print-out of the Indian Consulate address.

When she asked for a paper to write, the officer in the Consulate said that they can’t waste taxpayers’ money by giving her a single white sheet of paper. 

We were very helpless in this situation. We drove over 3 hours from Austin, TX, and also met with this unkind and non-empathetic treatment. We were not sure what to do as we did not have our passports. We called the UPS store where we shipped our documents along with our passports and requested a video.

The UPS Store sent in a video where it was clearly seen that our passports are being put inside the UPS envelope. We got a copy of the video (The UPS Store was very swift in their response considering the gravity of the situation (lost passport).

When we showed the video to the Japanese Consulate in Houston, TX, they said that ok, the passport was put in by the UPS staff, however when delivering what if someone had taken the passport out? We were confused and alarmed by this response. If that is the case, how is it that the Japanese Consulate in Houston, TX received all our documents but for the passport? 

When we tried to reason this with the Japanese Consulate in Houston, TX, we were asked why we shipped our passports. They said that people drive over 7-8 hours from Oklahoma to get a Japanese visa bringing their passports in and they do not ship passports. If that was the case, it would have really helped if the website provides clear instructions that passports should not be shipped. 

Even if the passport was not there at your offices, we do expect that you treat us with respect (not throwing papers at our faces and shutting doors).

We argued that the passports were at the Japanese Consulate and asked them to check their own video footage and more. (just like how the UPS did). We also asked them to check the trash because we argued that it is the negligence of the Japanese Consulate that we have lost our passport. We did not get any responses.

We met with Deputy Consul General Masaya Sagawa and also provided a written letter about our concerns. He said that he has no control over what happens at the Visa section and will forward it to the Consular General.  We also requested the Japanese Consulate to talk to the Indian Consulate. We are not sure if any of that was done. 

Wednesday,  May 17, 2023

We filed a police complaint that our passports were lost at the Japanese Consulate in Houston, TX and an FIR was filed with the Round Rock, TX Police.

Thursday, May 18, 2023

We traveled back to Houston, TX (many hours drive), and worked with the Indian Consulate in Houston, TX to get a new passport. A Big Thanks to the officials at the Indian Consulate in Houston, TX, they acted swiftly, understood the gravity of the situation (emergency where we are without a passport), and worked towards issuing our passport. They issued a new Tatkal passport the same day. This was amazing and a BIG relief to us. The situation could have been much worse. We are also thankful that we acted swiftly. We can’t thank the Indian Consulate in Houston, TX – enough.

A few questions and feedback to the Japanese Consulate in Houston, TX for you to better your process:

Can you please let us know what efforts have been done by the Japanese Consulate to find our lost passports? 

We have shared our video footage of the UPS personnel putting the passport into the UPS envelope. Were you able to check the video footage of you receiving the envelopes / your office personnel opening them?

We asked you to look for the envelope our original passports came in. Were you able to check with the folks who pick up trash? 

Can you confirm that there is no negligence from your end on losing our passport?

Why do you have such a poor user experience on your website?

Why do you accept only cash payments?

Even if our passports were lost for no one’s fault, don’t you think we should have been treated with a little bit of respect and your team should not have thrown papers in our faces and shut doors? Is this the kind of behavior you would expect had you lost your passports?

P.S: When we applied for an e-VISA with our new passports again, we got approval for our visas after our travel date. We had to cancel all our tickets, hotels, and more. Losing our passport and the non-empathetic and rude attitude of some people working at the Japanese Consulate in Houston, TX was a nightmare. 

We sent all of this in an email along with UPS video footage and more to the Japanese Consulate in Houston, TX. We have not received any response till date.

I also ask that the Japanese Consulate in Houston, TX better your process, train your staff so people do not have to go through such agony.

Thank you for reading.

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