Thursday, July 20, 2017

Visa Trivia

When you reach a time in your life when you can travel frequently, that is when you realise the nationality that you have and how it affects your travel plans. You begin to look for countries where you can travel visa-free and feel disheartened when those countries are not in your priority list. India ranks a sad 77 in terms of strength of passport and we have flexible visa options with only 49 countries. Oh, the third world problems!

Me and the Boy have a 10-year multiple entry US visa. We also have a touch-wood-wear-evil-eye worthy 3-year Schenghen visa. With this comes the benefit of entering quite a few countries because, well, when the big Daddy has give you legal entry, who are small kittens to deny you one!

Now America and famous European countries have consulates in major cities. But what happens when you want to go to a place like Cuba which has confusing entry terms and no consulate in your country? They expect you to post your passport to the nearest consulate for visa. Now a passport is something which is more dear to me than my, I was going to say life, but I heard how childish I sound, so, something a little less than that! How could we courier our passport? Can't you just spy on me on Facebook and give me a damn visa! I've found husbands for my friends through that, this is just a tiny entry stamp!

However, in comparison, if you are born in a rich, white country, you are a saint. You can enter several countries without any prior visa stamp. On last count, Americans can travel to 156 countries without a visa, Germans to 158. These are the people who go to Google Flights and don't type a destination city. Google baba entertains them with several options and they can take a flight to the cheapest destination without having to worry about an 'interview' date. The rich become richer and we remain as poor as a church mouse when it comes to travel. See, you will never find any Indian who has traveled to all countries in the world while there are many from these privileged nations who have achieved their target, albeit in a very stupid way. More on that later.

In another comparison, citizens of Afghanistan can go to 22 countries without having to worry about immigration - and I thought we were a much more developed and friendly nation. The difference here doesn't make us look that way.

My cousin who wanted to celebrate her brother's birthday in Croatia couldn't travel because of visa. Vacationers from smaller towns have to take visa appointments in metros like Delhi and Mumbai and travel there several weeks before their actual travel dates just to get a stamp. And imagine the woes of a family member who's loved one lives abroad and is in dire need to travel because of some emergency. Sushma Swaraj certainly cannot help everyone on Twitter.

Yes that's a serious problem unlike mine. But hey, I have other problems, so lets not judge here! I wish to travel freely... that's the only thing that keeps me alive. If the planes were faster, and tickets were cheaper, we would be flying a lot more than we already do. Or maybe not, 'cause the border restrictions will remind me that I belong to a country that is not welcome in more than a handful without legally checking my status. We would then be forced to give up our careers and move to Canada or Australia because somehow these countries have a solid passport and need more people to populate their region. We will get residency and citizenship thereafter and then lead a blissful life. It is another thing that without a job, we won't have the money to travel. But hey, atleast we will have freedom and old-age benefits... oh yes, more on that later as well!

Visa problems have made us alter our next vacation plan and hence the rant. India is a beautiful country with diverse flora, fauna and culture. Our food is next to none and the love in our country is unbeatable. We should be welcoming more people so that atleast the reciprocity rate will improve. I am glad Modi is trying to improve foreign relations, and hopefully that will benefit us in terms of immigration too.

Although India offers e-visa for several countries, reciprocity terms are not equal. In the 70's Indians could travel to countries like England and Germany without a visa, but illegal immigration led to stricter rules. I agree that we jump at the first opportunity of getting a stronger passport, but we need to have some flexibility for people who, atleast on paper, look like they won't migrate.

Since the smart-phone came into the picture, traveling has become much easier. Booking, navigating and exploring has become a cakewalk. Lets hope before my joints start to pain and before we have to use our entire savings on some God-forsaken disease, we will be able to travel freely and more frequently. Border control - are you listening!?

2 comments:

  1. I hope that India avail of travel facilities and visa for its citizens. It's really sad to see such restrictions and countries who get benefits for being over entitled in the way it is perceived. There is an inherent discrimination for some countries to call the shots, read, power to control the world. Very well assessed.

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Your sweetness makes my day. Gentle criticism will be taken in the right spirit too :)