Visas Are a Big Fat Pain
Two years in South Africa has turned me lazy. I can speak the language, drive around (even if it is on the wrong – I mean “other” – side of the road), recommend good restaurants to tourists and even fake a South African accent when absolutely necessary. I have a South African bank account, hair stylist and temporary residency. I’m all settled in.
But now as I embark on the next Big Adventure, complete with new language, food and continent, I am faced with an all-too-familiar challenge: getting the visa.
Truth is I’m lucky. Having an American passport scores you a Get-In-Without-Visa card for most places. For up to three months I can prance my way in and around almost any country in the world, while my South African boyfriend has to attend an in-person interview to enter just about anywhere. I can hop on a plane to Germany, Guatemala or Thailand today without any necessary paperwork. But even my red, white and blue passport needs a visa to legally work in Vietnam.
I knew this going in, but I didn’t worry. After all, I already have a job lined up and that job has a full HR department dedicated to getting its foreign teachers visas. I also have travel experience. I’ve done the work visa thing before, and each time it was easy. In England I went the BUNAC route which was all well and good (except for that tiny part about carrying proof with me, which almost got me deported). In South Africa I went the full-blown lawyer route, complete with notaries and medical exams – and I lived to tell the tale. So, really, I thought this next round would be easy.
However from the midst of this paper laden process I will tell you the truth: visas are a big fat pain.
Visas, oh visas. I understand why you exist. I get that you are here to protect your country’s citizens from losing all jobs to foreigners. I don’t even begrudge your weird hierarchy that gives preference to countries with booming economies (and strong militaries). But why do you have to be so anal?
Why does “proof of degree” have to be the diploma – the ORIGINAL diploma – that’s somewhere in my parents’ attic? Don’t my official transcripts tell you the same thing? And why, oh why, can’t a police clearance certificate be printed from the internet if it’s an official US police website? Your obsessive compulsion has thrown me into the pit of the South African police system (how I miss you, American cops and your easy Clearance Certificates!) and sent me begging to my academic advisor who I haven’t seen in five years.
In one month I will say goodbye to my zebra, giraffe and elephant friends as I fly into the great Asian unknown. Fast forward one week from then and all visa nonsense will be done and dusted. Soon after I will forget this frustrating process and romanticize the whole thing. But for now, as I waste a beautiful day being fingerprinted in the Milnerton police station, I will say it again: visas are a big, fat pain.