Thursday, September 09, 2010

star spangled spanner

So tomorrow I have to go to the US embassy.

An embassy-visa-getting trip for traveling South Africans is like doing the dishes. Shit, a frequent occurrence, and necessary.

It's my turn to go to San Francisco for work in October.

And I really should be more excited. Perhaps if I get a visa, I will be.

I've never been to California, and this trip is a special one, as I'll be visiting my company's head office in Silicon Valley.

Albeit, I've already been told that if I have a cut on my fingerprints, I shouldn't bother to come in. I also cannot bring a phone, handbag/backpack or anything electronic with me to the embassy. Which means I have to travel around London with just a travel card tomorrow morning.

Then there's the paperwork. Not unlike the documents needed for a Schengen or other visitor's visa, but the others have definitely seemed easier.

There's an online form, but it doesn't auto-save. I've had to restart filling this fucking thing in about 5 times.

Three pages out of the entire 20 page document ask me in some form or another, whether I'm a Nazi, a terrorist or a generally evil person.

The other part was to call the embassy, and book an appointment via phone. Where they told me I'd need to present an 'agenda' of all my meetings and seminars that I'll be attending there.

No other country - not even Germany - has asked me for the run-down of my day. I almost asked them if they'd prefer to put a camera on me so that they can track me that way rather; it would be easier for everyone.

I've worked in the States before, so have been through all of this admin in the past.

But frankly, even though this is an awesome opportunity and is a work-sponsored trip to California, the bother of it all has made me ask whether it's really worth it.

Maybe it will be, I mean, it's San Francisco.

The Brit, being Brit, had a small 1-page online 'waiver' to fill in for his American access to be granted, which took him twenty minutes. Just saying.

I had a wodge of paperwork to hand them. And I've gone so far as to push even more documents at them. The more paper you can show embassy officials, whether it has anything remotely to do with your travel plans, the better.

So I henceforth have printed out a copy of my residential lease, bank statements from 3 different accounts, 2 work letters, and I'm thinking of maybe bringing in my birth certificate so that they can see I was actually born. And a birthday card from my Canadian aunt. And receipts from Tesco so that they can see what soup I ate for dinner last night. Maybe the label from my new [fuck me now] shoes.

No kidding.

I've bought a solid shampoo and conditioner bar. So that the only liquids I travel with are what lies in my salivary glands.

So I'll be excited. Once the torment of tomorrow's appointment is over.


kyknoord said...

I can't help wondering if it isn't the onerous bureaucracy that causes people to snap, so they lash out and commit rash acts.

Peas on Toast said...

kyk - wonder no more. For indeed your theory is correct.

Watch and learn.


Kathleen said...

My husband and I went to the States last year to visit my brother. If you think the form for women is bad the men between 16 and 40 is hilarious. He had to fill in and address and conatct person or every school he ever attended including nursery and every club he ever belonged to. Oh to just have that one page form. Interesting thought though the Visa last ten years so you can always get terriost tendencies after dealing with the embassy.

Natalie said...

marry the Brit and get yourself a UK passport! quicker than waiting the 5 years to apply yourself :)

Flossie said...

Ah, but at least they give you a 10year. What a pleasure. Those bastards and their Schengens still won't do that.

Peas on Toast said...

kathleen - I believe so! Aparently if you'd a dude, your 'risk profile' for visiting the States is 50% higher. I also thought about that - what happens if someone gets issued a ten years visa, and then decides to suddenly be a terrorist/is brainwashed by a cult? Still not complaining though, as Flossie says, at least they give you a long visa - Schengen is 4 days if youre lucky in some places.

Natalie - even if we married, say tomorrow, it would still be at least 3 years until I got a passport :( But either way better than the 5 years. It's changed even longer now - it's 8-10 years IF you do community service. Have you ever?!