Visas are a vital part of many long journeys. They are also quite complicated and very boring. I’m not good at coping with either of those things, so I called in the professionals! The Visa Machine is a company that can solve all your visa needs. They arranged my visas for my Empty Quarter journey. Here they share some helpful tips and tricks on this age-old question.
“Duck, light’s off and hope you don’t get shot” – Don’t let travel visas stand in the way of a good adventure.
That’s one approach we’ve seen to crossing a border over the years of being involved in the world of travel visas and adventure. The hopeful travellers in question had decided at the last minute to cross into a Central Asian country but didn’t have a travel visa giving them authorisation to do so. Rather than stand in line at a remote Embassy in a foreign country they drove up to the border in the dark, left one country formally and then just ducked down, turned off the headlights and drove across the border, entering the next country on their list and hoping nobody would notice. Somehow they managed it. Nobody noticed.It’s definitely a cheap way to solve the eternal awfulness of visas that many adventurers face. Working as a visa agency, we’ve collectively spent years standing in Embassies all over the world both marvelling and despairing at just how incredibly perfect some people can make bureaucracy. We heard from a guy who had argued with an official at a remote border in Africa for the best part of a day. He was repeatedly told he needed to go to the office of the Department of Foreign Affairs but not where that office was. After many hours, the border guard took one step to the right, smiled and said “Welcome to the Department of Foreign Affairs”.
There’s absolutely nothing you can do in some cases when faced with a bored bureaucrat. It might not matter how perfect your paperwork is or how nicely you smile, you might just be stuffed because the border guard didn’t like his breakfast. But there’s a lot you can do to make those moments few and far between.
Be prepared.It’s obvious but it really is important. Make sure you know which countries you need visas for and get them sorted as early as possible. Even filling out the forms for some Embassies takes a bit of mind reading. Some questions don’t seem to make sense or the Embassy website might have completely the wrong form on it. In some cases even Embassy staff won’t know the the full details because regulations change so often. Try and find some advice online from people who have done it recently or find a good visa agency to take the hassle out of it.
Watch the details.Pay attention to the little details in your visa applications. Some Embassies will reject a visa if your photograph is slightly the wrong size or shape, or if you’ve glued it on rather than stapled it. Others for using the wrong coloured ink or font. Some will refuse to accept applications if they’re just a bit scruffy looking or because you’ve missed out one of the 20 pieces of supporting evidence you were expected to provide.
Know where you standRemember paying for a visa application is not like buying something in a shop. You have no consumer rights at all. They can take your money, not give you a visa, not give you a reason why and still not refund you. It’s worth being as nice as possible but there’s no guarantee that you’ll get the visa if an immigration authority deems it so. Equally, visas are just the first step in an immigration process – once you have it, you still have to get across the border, and entrance to a country is ultimately up to the official at the gate.
Be patientIt can be frustrating dealing with Embassies and crossing borders if you’re not used to it. You can queue for hours at an Embassy just to be told you were standing in the wrong line. Sometimes it can take a few weeks to get a visa or a few days just to cross one border and you might get stuck camping in no-mans land. If you go with the flow rather than fight it, these moments can be entertaining – looked back on, they’re a part of the adventure and essential steps to get you where you ultimately want to be.
It’s not that badDespite all these dire sounding warnings, most Embassies and borders are fine, and usually, despite the often stern faces, the people working on them are often just a bit bored. Imagine if you had to sit in a wooden hut in the boiling sun all day waiting for your next .
Don’t let bureaucracy get in the way of your adventure
Most importantly, don’t let a little paperwork get in the way of a good adventure. Travel visas are essential to get to some places in the world, but you can get even the hardest things sorted out if you put the time in and persistence.
If it daunts you, or you can’t find the time to get the visas you need, then find a visa agency who can help you. It can be cheaper than travelling to and from the Embassies yourself, and it will certainly save you time and hassle.
Even if things don’t work out quite the way you imagined, such is the way of adventuring and all the planning that comes with it. Take it in your stride and keep your chin up. There’s always ducking at the border after all…