Have you ever experienced being stopped at the immigration border and sent home due to that you did not have a visa? Losing your whole vacation. Or pay a lot of money because you stayed overtime? Not having an appropriate visa, can have many negative consequences. Read about my experience with visas.
Why would I like to write about this today? Because one close friend of mine from Norway, was supposed to arrive to Bolivia yesterday. We were all very excited about seeing him again. However, after 24 hours of travelling, while he finally arrived to the airport in Bolivia, the immigration police did not let him entry to the country. Instead they wanted to put him on a flight back to Spain. Why? Because he did not have his visa. Instead of back to Spain, he was sent to Buenos Aires, for arrange his visa.
As on his previous trip to Bolivia he stayed overtime, I had warned him about that I was afraid that this could happen in the immigration control. Furthermore, I had advised him to arrange his visa in Norway before travelling. However, he did not listen and took the chance to go without. This having many negative outfalls, economically, psychologically, and regarding time.
In some countries, you might not need a visa. However, this does not mean that you do not need to be aware. Always check if you passport is valid for minimum 6 months after arrival. I know people that were sent back on the first flight home from Turkey, where they did not need visa, due to that their passports was valid for less than 6 months upon arrival. This resulting in that they lost everything they had invested in their vacation, like hotels, rental car etc. Thousands of USD they will never see again.
I have personally never experienced being sent home while immigrating to a new country. I have always been careful about having my papers in order. However, I have had situations where I almost did not get my visa in time, and therefore almost losing everything I had invested in flight tickets etc.
The first time I did so, was when I was going on my internship to Nigeria. After a month in Sri Lanka, I decided to go to Malaysia (Kuala Lumpur) for arrange my visa from there. As this was the closest destination that had a Nigerian embassy. As well as cheaper tickets to Nigeria. And I took it as opportunity to see a new destination. While I arrived to the embassy, there was one paper missing, and I was asked to come back in one week. I was calm, and I was thinking that they would give me the visa the same day. As I had explained to the lady behind the counter that my internship started one day after she asked me to come back. I booked my flight ticket to Nigeria, and traveled around Malaysia for that week, and came back with all the papers the day she told me to. I presented the papers. Then she told me to return in one week to get my passport and visa. I told her that I have my flight tomorrow, and that I had explained her this one week ago. The counter asked me to wait for the consultant for talk to her about my situation, as she was the one deciding.
I waited for around one hour. Then the consultant came in. A tall black lady, that started to scream at some of the other persons that were applying for visa, due to that tried to put their papers in order in the waiting room. This was something that they should have done before coming.
I was very nervous. This was the lady that is going to decide my future. If I will lose all the money I have used for my flight ticket. If I will be able to do my internship.
Then the lady came to me. I explained my situation, and what had happened. She started to scream at the lady behind the counter, for telling me to come back today, and not helping me one week ago while I first arrived to the embassy.
Fortunately, I was giving a visa the same day. In the night. The next morning I was on my flight to Nigeria.
But it is not just whole arriving to a new country you have to be aware of having your papers in order. Also when you go out of a country you should know you have your papers in order. If they give you a paper with a stamp with a date while arriving, keep it! Always! You probably need it when you will leave. I have friends that did not do so, and had problems while leaving different countries.
Also be sure that you do not stay longer than your visa allows you. I did so, and it was expensive. Furthermore, I was almost not let out of the country, and put on a 12 hour bus ride back to the nearest city for arrange the payment. While my husband and I, were travelling to Iguazu, I had stayed 3 months overtime in Bolivia. I was unaware of that, and I thought I was legal all the time. However, during my stay they had changed the rules, from 6 months to 3 months. On the border to Paraguay they requested me to pay 3 months of fines, 3 USD per day. On a border that is in the middle of nowhere. A place where there is no ATM. We did not have more than 20 USD in cash with us.
We tried everything possible. And it did not work. We were sure that our trip was ruined.
But then, luckily, a German girl, a stranger, that we just had talked a few words with before entering to the bus told me: “I have some money in cash, I can borrow it to you”. I was so grateful! That she really trusted me so much that she wanted to borrow me that much money! I could not believe it! A girl that she did not know. She gave me the money that she had hidden under her clothes for me to pay my fines. And I could leave the country and continue my trip.
So always do your research! Before applying, and be aware of changes that might occur.
I have to admit, that I hate applying for visas. It is stressful. A lot of papers that needs to be presented. Often a need to change something, and come back. A lot of waiting. Often, not so friendly workers.
However, they are also humans. And my experience is that they give you want to need in the end. When I was applying for my Indian visa in Hong Kong, they first refused me, as I was going as an intern. “We just give out tourist-visas here”, I was told. However, the kind guy behind the counter, gave me back my intern-invitation-letter and put my application as a tourist. One week later, I had my visa.
In Nigeria, I also applied for visa for Togo, Benin and Ghana. In the embassy for Ghana they made many problems. They told me that I needed a paper from the Norwegian embassy. I got it, but it was not exactly how they wanted it. However, I got what I needed in the end.
Also in Bolivia, the immigration office made me come back several times. I had to change the papers. One word here and there in some letters. Come back, and present them again and again. It was very frustrating. Also because they did not always treat me so good while I was there.
All in all, getting a visa is usually not a pleasant process. But it is necessary, if you would not like to be sent back home on the first flight, and lose your vacation or travel.
Do you have any visa stories or tips?