Tuesday, March 11, 2008


One other piece of red tape that I'm currently weathering deals specifically with visas for the individual countries that I'm heading through (and where Dad's heading also). Here's a quick run-down on visa 411 for each country, and particular entry requirements for US Citizens:

China: In DC, you walk past an extremely bored security guard and through a metal detector whining away every five seconds to enter a room mobbed with people who have no interest in pretending they know what a line is. You fill out your application form and submit it along with your passport and photo at Window #1. When you return to pick it up, you go to Window #2 to pay a $100 fee.. regardless of whatever visa you are getting. Then, you are promptly directed to Window #3 where you pick up your passport. There is a Window #4, but I didn't really understand what that was for other than to socialize and for visa workers to come out into the lobby for a few minutes to watch one of the overhead TVs playing Chinese soap operas. From this experience I have learned that China appears to love confusing lines that they can convince Americans to stand in and Chinese can cut in front of: http://www.china-embassy.org/eng/hzqz/default.htm

India: About as discombobulated as it gets. India, I just learned, has now outsourced it's visa service and as a result you now have to submit your application along with two passport photos and proof of citizenship (photocopy of a drivers license will do) along with your trip agenda. Be prepared for a LONG wait in the morning as an Indian visa mass humanity scene unfolds before your very eyes. You thought China was a mob scene? Just wait for this one. You have no.. idea... Cost: $73 for a 6 month multiple entry visa: http://indiavisa.travisaoutsourcing.com/

Japan: An entry card and customs form is handed to you in-flight to fill out somewhere over the Aleutians and while you are digging hungrily through a bag of mini-pretzels during your 8th hour of flight. Once the plane lands, lucky you! You now get to meander aimlessly through a maze of hallways that leads to an entry room complete with 5,000 non-Japanese passengers waiting in line for an hour. To pass the time, you watch with absolute glee as 5,000 Japanese passengers whiz through their side of the room where close to 5,000 immigration agents wait on them with anxious anticipation. When one of the 5 immigration officials dedicated to foreigners finally get to you, they take an iris picture and scan both index fingerprints with these cool little color coded machines that chirp and make you feel as if they are smiling at you like an Anime film.

Nepal: You need an entry visa, but conveniently enough you can fill out the form and bring it with you to Kathmandu International Airport along with one passport photo and $30USD. Easy day. http://www.visi.com/~shah/cgi-bin/embassy/scripts/embassy_page_loader.cgi?page=tourist_visa_requirements

Singapore: Like Japan, you are handed a landing card in-flight to fill out on the 7 hour flight from Tokyo Narita. This landing card only has about 5 fields to enter, so it is surprisingly simple- very much like the one used for England. When you land, you stroll through Shangi International Airport- immaculate, carpeted, lined with living plants even. A smiling immigration official offers you a hard candy as you wait to be processed in. Gosh, you think. This place is super easy and super friendly. Then you remember the front of the landing card which reads in big.. and bold.. and blue letters: "DEATH TO DRUG TRAFFICKERS IN SINGAPORE". And you know that they mean it. Leave your gum at home too, bub.

Thailand: Like Japan and Singapore in use of a landing card and no visa needed prior to entry. Not like Japan and Singapore in that you have to pay 500 Baht (the equivalent of $15) per person to get out of the country when you leave. Pay to leave?

So just for fun and to show how relatively easy it is to get into the above countries, I felt it was important to toss in some nation states with polar opposite positions to US foreign policy (in other words, those that aren't on our Christmas Card list):

Iran: Rumor has it that in order to get into Iran, one has to essentially fly to a neighbor state like Qatar, hit the Iranian embassy and wait. And wait. And wait. One day, if you are lucky, you will be contacted and told that you can enter under a tourist visa while closely watched 24/7. There is another way: Join an Iranian climbing tour heading to Mt Damavand and keep your fingers crossed that you aren't indefinitely detained by their Government as a bargaining chip in this whole nuclear flap.

North Korea: Whatever. You aren't getting in here so long as the little guy with fly-away hair and enormous glasses from Team America is calling the shots.

Qumar: President Bartlett had one heck of a time with Qumar during his time in office and we heard about these pesky troublemakers every week from him and his staff. A former British protectorate, Qumar was originally an ally of the US and getting in was easy before Season 3. But then all hell broke loose, and now only Josh Lyman can get in. Damn those Qumaris and their oil.

Berkeley: Who would ever have thought that a US Marine Recruiting Station could push this sleepy little country well known for it's staunch conservative values and close alignment with the mainstream US so completely over the edge? -Poof!- mass uprisings, tactical strategies like "Code Pink! Make Out, Not War!", mass appeal for a Federal "Department of Peace", dogs and cats living together. Where will it end? I've got it- maybe if publicly elected officials claim that Marines "have no place in Berkeley" and "haven't done anything for this country". Oh, wait- that already happened. Hmm.. no change though... how shocking. Beware: if you don't have on your hippie disguise when attempting to enter this Hermit Kingdom, immigration officials will sniff you out in a second, dude. They might then flog you with daisies and tie-died T-shirts.

No comments: