The Australian Immigration Department had a very bizarre and frustrating Christmas gift ready for me at Incheon airport. One moment, I was standing in the queue to check in my baggage, blissfully going about the normal procedure of checking in baggage for a trip to Australia. The next, I was told that I did not have a visa, and would not be able to go on the holiday that I have been looking forward to for months.
The day started off as expected, with checking packing and riding to Incheon with plenty of time to spare. We even saw an Ultimate friend at the airport, which helped to brighten the early part of the day. We chatted briefly. We bid each other farewell. And then we walked to the check-in queue, unaware of the moments of distress that lay ahead.
When the check-in process took longer than expected, I became uneasy. I knew that something was wrong. We had completed the application process perfectly – what could be wrong? Had over a month of application been in vain? The lady
smiled weakly and said: ‘Sir, you have no visa for Australia.’
We frantically searched through our emails, seeking the visa confirmation that we had received from the consulate. Finding it, we discovered that the visa number on the application and the visa number on my passport did not match. I didn’t have a visa for Australia after all. Kristen and I were perplexed as to how this could happen. We had submitted so many forms in the extensive, more than one-month-long process of getting the visa that it seemed illogical that something could still be wrong. Surely these kind of things had to be checked and re-checked before they could be approved? Surely someone had confirmed that the visa number matched the passport number of the person applying for the visa? Apparently not. Apparently it is possible that, even with the innumerable checks and balances in the system, a person can enter the final two digits of a visa incorrectly.
The staff at the Garuda Indonesia desk looked far more calm than I did in the situation. While I was suffering a bout of raging at the system, they were calmly calling the Australian immigration to see if the problem could be rectified. They were put on hold for a long time. The very kind manager reassured me that were still on the line. Ten agonising minutes later, he walked up to us with a smile on his face and said that the visa number was being changed. The crisis was over almost as quickly as it had began. I could breathe again.
From that point, everything seemed to go smoothly and quickly. The usual inconveniences of air travel were like welcome friends. I smiled while standing in customs lines, because I knew that we were getting onto the plane afterwards. Even getting moderately lost in Bali airport was pleasant enough, because we were only a few hours away from our destination and my family.
The final hurdle was clearing the infamous Australian border. I have watched more episodes of ‘Border Security’ than I would like to admit. Each one swirled through my head as we stood in the queue for Immigration. I was expecting stern, unwelcoming faces to meet me and question every small aspect of my trip. What greeted me were smiling, kind people welcoming me into their country. Before I knew it, we were in the car, on the way to the family house.
With a day’s distance, it is easy to see that there is always a solution. When you have been told that your vital document is incorrect, it is easy to fall into despair and frustration, as I did. However, the airport staff have likely seen it all before. Have faith. You could still get there. Merry Belated Christmas, everyone!