Tag Archives: visa
June 7, 2013

Visa Stories: South Africa

Awhile back, I sat down to write about all our border crossings.  Almost without fail, each one had it’s own drama to deal with.  I never did get through writing them all, but I mined this one from that pile of first drafts.

Visa stamps

We almost ran into serious trouble trying to get into South Africa.  It started at our embarkation point, Ezeiza, Buenos Aires’ international airport.

We were checking out bags to Cape Town, when the person behind the Malaysian Airlines counter asked us if he could see our visas.  No, we told him, we were planning to get them when we arrived at the South African immigrations.

He began to grill us for information.

Did we have return tickets?
No, we were planning to continue our travels through Africa.

How were we planning to leave the country? Did we have plane or bus tickets?
No, we didn’t know how long we’d be staying and figured it would be impossible to buy South African bus tickets from Argentina, anyway.

He sighed and said he wasn’t sure he could let us on the flight.  “South Africa is very strict with their entrance requirements,” he said. “Very strict.”


April 9, 2012

Living Down Under

When we were planning our trip, it was only supposed to be a year-long thing.  July 1 to July 1.  We were both hoping that our jobs could be held for us, but in my case, that didn’t work out.  I’m glad.  We would have lost out on a world of opportunities if we’d had to rush back to the daily grind.

Just after we left the United States, we heard about one of those opportunities from a fellow traveler in Ecuador.  He (or she; wish I could remember who it was!) told Oksana about Australia’s Work and Holiday Visa program.  Basically, if you’re 30 or under, you can apply to live and work in Australia for up to a year.  I was over the age limit, but Oksana was both qualified and intrigued.  It seemed like a risky proposition at the time – spending almost 3 days worth of our travel budget on the application fee – but ultimately we decided to give it a go.  Maybe, if everything worked out just right, we’d be able to extend our trip.

Two or three days later, she received confirmation that her visa had been approved.  It stipulated that she must enter Australia by December 28th, 2011.  Perfect!  We had a full year to decide if we were going to use it.

By the time we were in Thailand, we had met many Australians while traveling and most of them had suggestions about where to stay and how to go about finding work.  During our month of downtime in Phuket, Oksana started the job hunt, mostly using Seek, Australia’s job search site.  She sent her resume to dozens of recruiters and companies and collected an impressive set of rejection letters.  We learned that companies don’t often give interviews to applicants who can only work a maximum of 6-months in one place…

Getting her resume out there wasn’t a complete waste of time, however.  She had a least one Skype conversation with a recruiter that specialized in auto-industry work.  He confirmed what we already knew: Just after Christmas (which was when we were planning to arrive) was literally the worst time of year to be looking for a job.  Nobody’s hiring during the summer holidays.

He asked her to contact him when we arrived, though.  Maybe something would turn up.

August 15, 2007

Naturalization IV: Passports

Looks like I’ve cleaned up a little bit since my pasty convict days...

Oksana and I are hoping to go to Australia this November, but we’ve been putting off purchasing tickets for a long time.  There’s a lot we have to do first: Arrange for time off from work, get visas, buy the plane tickets.  Before we could do any of that, we had to resolve our passport situation.

Primarily, we were biding our time until Oksana received her U.S. citizenship, but I needed to renew my own passport, as well.  I got my first passport in 1997 (a decade ago!) for a Language and Culture of Mexico class and it’s set to expire in December.  While technically it expires after our planned vacation, Australia would prefer I have at least six months remaining on it.

Oksana received her U.S. Naturalization certificate on Friday, July 27th, and we briefly considered submitted the paperwork for our passports within the hour.

We didn’t know for sure beforehand, but she would have been able to apply for her passport immediately after the oath ceremony. She would have had to send off her valuable, original naturalization certificate without making copies of it (but like a birth certificate, you’re not supposed to, anyway. You’re not legally allowed to make any copies of that document.)

We already had our passport photos, so all we had to do over the weekend was fill out the online applications supplied by the state department website. Oksana filled hers out, I filled out a separate renewal form. On the very next business day after the ceremony, Monday on our lunch break, we met to stand in line together at the post office.

It took our entire lunch to get our forms mailed off, but we were happy to do it. Both Oksana and I paid extra to have our passports expedited – we’d read about the horror stories in the news. If our passports were stuck in processing for much more than a month, I doubt we’d be able to arrange our trip to Australia in time. The postal employee who took our certified, tracked, and insured envelopes confidently assured us we’d have our new passports in three weeks. Fair enough.

That was Monday. On Saturday, Oksana’s new passport was sitting in our post office box.  Of course, there was no sign of my passport anywhere, but that’s okay because I figured the renewal process used a different queue. In fact, my passport arrived only five days after hers. Praise be to the Seattle Regional Passport Agency!

We still have to work out all those logistics before we can go to Australia, but I’m looking forward to the prospect of traveling under the same passport as Oksana. Easier visas! Sharing lines through immigration checkpoints! RFID chip vulnerabilities!