Friday, March 12, 2010

1 Freelance Friday: Visa Woes

I was 17 the first time I went through the visa process. I had just been accepted to McGill University in Montreal, and amid all the teenage angst of packing up my childhood room and getting ready for my first year away from home I had bonus drama: I needed a student visa. It seemed pretty straightforward at first...just fill out some paperwork and send along some proof of enrollment. But wait--I wouldn't be 18 until two months into my first semester! Which I guess flagged me as some kind of risky alien, because I had to get someone in Canada to write me a "sponsorship" letter first. So some poor soul on McGill payroll was forced to pinky swear I was legit to get me in the country. To this day I wonder how they determine who gets stuck with signing their name to the honor of unknown restless youth from faraway lands.

And let's be serious, that was to get into Canada. Since then I've dealt with plenty of other visa processes. They are unfailingly a massive pain in the butt. Russia requires sponsorship letters for ALL their visas, but luckily hotels are more than happy to vouch for you if you promise to stay with them. We had to visit the Vietnamese embassy in Kuala Lumpur three separate times to a) catch them at one of the few hours they are open each day and b) pay all fees in cash. The bureaucratic hoops one has to go through to get a Chinese visa deterred us from visiting the country altogether. Apparently, the current and former communists hold some sort of a grudge. And in the ultimate irony, India has outsourced their visa process to a company in New York.

I know the whole thing's reciprocal, so it's got to be just as big of a mess for Brazilians and Egyptians to get into our country as it us for us to get into theirs. And with the US recently announcing increases to visa fees things are definitely moving in the wrong direction. Is it just me or is the whole thing rather ridiculous? If countries are suspicious of international visitors they should beef up their questioning at the border to something more than "how long do you plan to stay in X country" and "are you carrying any cigarettes with you". Search my bag for agricultural products and illegal substances. Check my body temperature to screen me for swine flu. But please, don't test my worthiness by how well I can fill out complicated paperwork or how much I can pay. I promise to spend a lot of money on food, hotels, and museums once you let me in.

Send questions for the mailbag to

1 comment:

  1. So well said! (And as I've just started the process of getting an Indian visa, I laughed out loud in recognition of the outsourcing irony.)


Related Posts with Thumbnails