Friday, May 27, 2011

The Border: Visa Nightmare #3

I can barely stomach writing about the whole chain of events that led up to it, but I can tell you that I spent the better part of the day yesterday trying to get to Bahrain, with an exit visa I had been assured by my administration was valid, only to be told at the border that it was not in the computer.

(You see, the Kingdom is such a fun place, you even need a visa to LEAVE.)

This is the third time something like this has happened to me. In 2000, when I first went to Russia by train, I discovered the hard way that I needed a transit visa for Belorus, despite being assured by the school I was applying for that I did not.

In 2009, I returned to Russia with a new passport that did not match the numbers in my old visa, and was turned away, despite being assured by my school that it didn't matter. The expense and conflict caused by this was the Prime Mover that got me out of Russia, so perhaps that was Allah working in his mysterious ways.

I spent about $100 on taxis and buses yesterday, and I'll be charged one night for the hotel I reserved. All in all that's cheap. I spent over $1000 in Germany getting a new Russian visa back in 2009.

The visa thing is a nightmare on many levels -- not only is it impossible for you to know what's correct, with the language barrier and everything, it's generally impossible for your school to know what's correct, because rules change all the time.

One mis-spelled word, one wrong date, one lacking stamp, one wrong number, one picture with the wrong colored background -- and YOU'RE FUCKED.

The government offices involved tend not to be much help because there are so many people involved that different people will tell you different things. (Assuming you can find somebody who speaks English in the first place.)

The internet is a help, but of course, you get people mouthing off with great authority who don't have any fucking idea what they're talking about.

It's such a nightmare of beauracracy now, being a TEFL teacher. That was kind of one of the appeals of it, back in the day -- you didn't need references, certificates, work visas, anything. You could just roll up and work on a tourist visa, get paid in cash, take a few months off between jobs. . .

Now it's all one big apostiled document. Stamped with The Mark of the Beast.

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