October 29, 2019
I’m fortunate in that I get to apply for a lot of visas, generally in advance, sometimes at the airport, when I find out I need a Visa, sometimes twice when the visa has been lost in the bureaucratic cut-price IT system. The visa I’ve applied for most is for the US, and although easy, I did once have it run out while I was in the air, so I was cleared to fly, but technically not to land. Having no visa when you get to the US is a pain, and in my case, I ended up “having a chat” with a nice border official for about an hour in what looked like a militarised FEDEX counter.
After being grilled about my stay (“No, Yosemite isn’t a city”), I was asked to pay $19 and sent on my way. The worst inconvenience was when a US border agent told me, as I was a writer, that I needed an I-Visa, and wrote that in pen in my passport. Now having anyone write in your passport is bad, but when it is stamped by a US official, it just brings trouble everywhere you go. Luckily, I finally get score a US I-Visa, while filming a TV show in the US, but unfortunately, my passport was so knackered, I was told I had to get a new one, and so lost the stamp (if you get a high-value visa, use a new passport!).
There are several countries I’d loved to make me forever home, number one being the US, as I like Americans (which are as broad a species as ‘Europeans”), but also Australia, Oman, maybe Kenya, but having no degree, qualifications, skills, or a vast fortune, the chances of ever doing so at 48 are very slim. And so when my visas run out, I generally have to leave, then give it a while before I come back (even to places where I wonder who’d want to sneak back in?). But in all my travels, and all the borders I’ve crossed, and all the red tape and hoops I’d dealt with, not once did I ever fail to understand why these things are the way they are, not once did ever view these things in any way racist. Instead, I just saw them as one way to slow the pace of grey uniformity; one way to stop the places you visit, not being only a replica of the place you left.