Thursday, April 2, 2015

All about the visa application from hell. And about Asian tourists and the Asian century.




So the other day in Tokyo, living a #Travelife, I applied for a tourist visa to a country I'm planning to visit sooner rather than later in my never-ending Travelife.

This country is actually not my choice, as I've already been. But some people wanted to go, and I'm happy to visit almost any city or country again, so I said yes.

Since the last time I visited this country, which was quite awhile back, their immigration laws have tightened unreasonably -- giving me an unbelievable headache.

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FULL OF REGRET

If I had known how much trouble it would be to get a simple tourist visa for a 48-hour visit to this country in the economic doldrums, I would have just struck it off my itinerary.

But as tickets have been bought and so many things booked for a 48-hour stay, I had no choice but to proceed with my visa application.

I'm one of the lucky ones, in fact. As a resident of several countries, I have a choice of applying in different cities, and Tokyo happens to have almost every embassy on the planet, and most of them are not teeming with visa applicants.

In general, no long lines and no power-tripping local hires at the window.

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HARDER THAN FINDING A NEEDLE IN A HAYSTACK

Most people in the Philippines, for instance, have to actually send their passports to another country for as long as eight weeks, just to get a visa to this country.

In spite of this, I'm having quite a time trying to get a simple tourist visa to this country that should be welcoming tourists instead of turning them off.

In Tokyo, the embassy staff are nice enough. And when I visited the embassy in Tokyo to bring the documents the other day, I actually felt sorry for this country as it's obviously seen better days. There was almost no activity anywhere and the very modest lobby had no visitors. 

There was no decor either, save for some Japanese display and some brochures in a rack.


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A nice lady sat down with me in the lobby to go over the mountain-load of documents I'd had to prepare for a visa for this 48-hour visit.

She said to me, in very polite Japanese: "Your documents are incomplete."

And when she told me what else I needed to submit, I almost fell off my seat. Basically this country is concerned about every (non-Japanese) Asian tourist's financial resources, and -- excuse me for being so blunt -- I'd already given her enough documents to prove that I could happily stay in that country for years without ever being a burden on the state. 

And, most importantly to them, perhaps, I'd also prepared enough documents to prove that I would leave their country after 48 hours, instead of staying on illegally -- as they seemed to fear every Asian was going to do.

But they needed five more documents and I swear these were the silliest documents I had ever heard of.

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TRYING TO UNDERSTAND 
A SILLY SITUATION

It took all of my willpower to not say exactly what was on my mind -- and at the tip of my tongue.

So instead, in equally polite Japanese, I said: "Last I heard, this country was in a deep recession and they badly need people to spend more money in it. Why are they making it so difficult for Asian tourists who are obviously going to spend enough to save a couple of jobs?"

But that's the way of the world.

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A VISIT TO MY WARD OFFICE

And after this visit, off I went directly to my ward office in Tokyo to get some of those silly documents. The man at the ward office looked perplexed when I asked him for the documents I needed. 

"What are these for?" He asked me. I said, with a big sigh: "An embassy needs them for a visa application."

"A visa application?" He asked incredulously. "Are you going to live there?"

"I'm planning to stay for all of 48 hours," I said, "And believe me,  I now wish I wasn't doing so."

He then said: "These are the strangest documents I've ever been asked for, for a visa application."

Ha. My thoughts exactly, I actually said to him.

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HAVE THEY BEEN LIVING UNDER A ROCK?

And I don't know what rock these immigration officials from this country with a long-sinking economy have been living under for the past years, but in case they hadn't noticed, it's the Asian century, and Asian tourists are the among the fastest growing and also strongest spending segments of the world's tourism industry.

Wrong move, to make it so hard for Asian tourists to visit their country as we're just going to take our credit cards and happily live a #Travelife elsewhere.


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