Sunday, May 28, 2006

Across Countries

We speak about denied visas for a visiting scholar, or a student stranded elsewhere. We discuss the treatment of immigrants and trade barbs about countries. Some people feel righteous about their country, but mostly the accuser in one instance becomes the accused in the other.

But going away from scholars and students, the middle-class and rich, I want to talk about the ordinary people (think median household income of $43k in NY, think going on a school trip or vacation given as a gift) who want to travel, not emigrate. The travel across countries begins with a commute to the consulate. Taking a day off work to come to NYC and wait on the line.

- Medical insurance? But my provider does not cover travel. Do I have to pay extra $60 for the insurance?
- How much money do I need to have in the bank? I emailed them, they never replied to me.
- I changed my job, how am I going to ask my old boss for employment letter? I called the consulate, but nobody picked up the phone.
- The forms are on the web? Damn, I need to pay for another hour to get on that Internet in my neighborhood.

The whole process is predatory, no matter what country (India, Chile or Canada) is involved. People complain, "But there is no one to talk to. I want to explain my case." Instead they face a visa officer who speaks in direct, accusatory voice booming over the mic: "Have you any evidence of your planned stay?". People respond in a nervous voice, spill their bulgent (new word?) paperwork and dread the moment when the officer finds a blocking item on the "list", and alas, they have to return another day with more evidence. It is the trial before the travel.


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12:36 AM  

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