When the idea of doing a really big trip was first mooted it sounded like fun and seemed easy as the ships and planes would take us to most places. A year later it is still fun but plenty of work, most importantly, applying for and receiving visas for every country and little island we will be visiting.
I have learnt a lot in this visa application process, besides the fact that there is such a diversity in costs from each country. They range from R130 – R2500 ($10 – $210). One advantage we do have is that we are both SA citizens. If a couple are not of the same citizenship it is very likely that they will have to apply/not apply for different visas. If we had not both been SA citizens we would definitely have employed an agent to do all the preparation and applications.
Also, the information required varies considerably from country to country. Some want to know everything about the applicant and his/her life experiences while another just wants proof that you have confirmed bookings to leave their country by the date given and that you have enough money to care for ourselves.
Sometimes the questions are quite funny.
We have been asked:
- Details of our (deceased) parents
- Details of our children – Why?? They aren’t travelling with us
- Do we plan to visit the country to practice prostitution, money laundering or financial fraud?
- Do we plan to visit the country to perform acts of terrorism or to enrol persons for a terrorist organisation?
- Are your parents alive? Answer – no, they are deceased
- Next question: Do your parents reside in this country? Well, unlikely I should think.
- Have you had a visa for this country previously? Yes. When? 1994 Please give details – date of issue, expiry date, visa no. Regrettably I don’t have my visa from 25 years ago.
This gaping difference in the type and detail of questions means that some application forms are 5 pages while others are 2. They are all electronic these days and yet, even though you submit them electronically, most countries require that one brings a hard copy to the consulate. Thank goodness for 2 countries it is not necessary to waste paper and ink. One of them actually states it like that.
Then there is the paper work. Virtually all of the 8 countries to which we have to apply require proof of financial stability, proof of all accommodation and travel bookings and proof of sufficient insurance. Each one wants an up to date set of last 3 months bank statements – MUST be original and each page signed and stamped by the teller.Then some want proof of a reason to return to your home country such as proof of property ownership, others request a certified copy of our marriage certificate; one country wanted all copied documents certified by the police and not any other Commissioner of Oaths. This is what I mean about very careful recording and filing. The need for our marriage certificate as proof is for those few countries which combine our applications and visas.
I did use an excellent small agency to assist with some bookings and visa applications as we did not have to appear in person for these and one of them does not have a consulate in Durban.
At first and we believed that we would need 6 visas but it later became known that we actually need 8! We will have a Schengen visa through Portugal which will be fine for Copenhagen as well but not for Greenland even though it is part of Denmark. Similarly, the Schengen visa will not be acceptable to visit New Caledonia which is a French colony. The reason for each of these is that the 2 countries are not physically part of the European continent.
The claim is that all this information is essential to protect countries from illegal immigrants but it seems as though it is easier for them to enter a country than it is for genuine tourists!!
I am very happy to say that we have 2 visas in our sticky paws – New Zealand and Australia. We visit the USA Consulate here in Durban on 11 April. Great fun!