Over the years, it’s not one, two or three countys’ immigration officer that has looked at my passport from page to page, corner to corner and made a smoothly flowing que behind me come to a stand still, because i’m the one at the desk with an African passport. Queuing in any immigration line at any point of entry has become something i do not look forward to because, it either comes with lots of questionings, strange looks, or being weirdly directed to some tiny room to the side while everyone is looking, instead of having an easy stamping like everyone else.
Much of my time at the airports has been punctuated by the circles of need-of-proof of why i’m in that particular place. It used to bother me before, or make me scared, to not be asked to go back home, but now it has grown in me to know that i have all the rights to be in that place and be able to prove the reasons why. I know they are doing their job which they are so good at, but most of the time the way they express it to me because i’m traveling with my African passport is totally discriminative and I got to suck it up. My conversations with an immigration officers have become something of a chess match; they make their move, i make mine.
“Why do you come to our country?” I’m asked, as the immigration officer checks my passport from page to page, to see if either the passport is fake or if it isn’t mine, also if i have been to that country before and maybe overstayed my visit, and then also, which other countries i have been to.
“Oh, i’m visiting,” I say, insouciant;using my 94.8 FM Radio voice.
“How long will you stay?” He goes on…
“you mean how long will i be visiting for?, i’m booked for 10 days unless my shopping for goods exceeds the days I’m to visit.” i respond with keeping a good eye contact.
“What do you do for a living?” The officer asks looking at me one sided.
“I’m a business woman. I import things to my country from any country i travel to.”
He then asks for my hotel bookings, return ticket, proof of what i sell and a confirmation if i have proof of that to show. I gladly accept, check in my carry on bag, bring out a file that i always have next to me at all times, remove a good amount of documents and show them to him. Somethings like my 10 day booked hotel that has a confirmation number, my return to Kenya flight ticket, all my invoices (that’s if he got time to look at all of them) and photos of my goods on cargo.
“How much money do you have with you?” he asks, making sure he doesn’t forget.
“With me i have around 1,200 USd in cash but i got my bank card too. Couldn’t carry a lot of money on airplane, could get lost.” i answer him reaching into my pocket to show him the money.
None of that bothers me at all, because as i said, they are always doing their job and most of the time i feel the need to also do mine; subtly making the point that i had done no offence to be there.
I had studied Education in Literature and communications and even became an English teacher 2 years ago in one of the lower classes in Thailand, but gave up on it when i started my Online English translations and trainings; tutoring, but this is something i or you can not say directly to an immigration officer with a passport at hand hoping to get a visit visa. That would be telling him straight face that you would be working while inside his country. Which is against the law.
This kind of interrogations at POAs(point of entries) are not just a problem in the west and Asia. My most painful visa stamps approvals experience have, sadly, been on the African continent – the place where passports should be recognised immediately for the useless, artificial construct they are; where members of the same ethnic groups are separated by barriers imposed from outside. The system is broken and the idea that where-you-are-born is a lottery, exempts us from collective responsibility to change that system.
Experiences like this and more observations have always reminded me that i’m African and any time i travel i will always be seen and treated as one. The way i prepare myself physically, emotionally, psychologically and financially, therefore, has to be different from any other race traveler. I need to know that i MIGHT be questioned lightly, intensively or even denied entry in a country, depending on how i present myself.
Here are some of the frequently asked questions at a border POA (point of entry);
.Why have you come to this county.
Answer this question depending on the visa you are seeking or have in your passport. If ii’s a tourist visa, don’t mention something like looking for a job.
.Have you been in this country before?
Always say the truth. If you have been in a country, especially with the same passport, possibilities are that they have all your details in their system.
.How long do you intend to stay.
This should depend on a country. Each country has an agreed amount of time given to an individual depending on the county they coming from. If your passport allows you to stay in a country for 1 month, there is no way you will tell an immigration officer that you will be there for 40 days. Also, you need to alternate your stay to your return ticket and hotel bookings.
.Where will you be staying while inside the country.
You MUST have a booked hotel ticket for the said days to show. There are some sites like Booking.com or Agoda.com that allows you to book and pay at the hotel. So. in case you don’t get an entry, you have nothing to loose.
.Where will you be traveling to from here?
It sounds ‘a none of your business’ kind of thing but i was asked this in Singapore. They always want to see a flight ticket flying you out of their country. Some travelers do multiple countries on one travel and so they have couple of stamped visas on their passport which is one of the easiest way to travel. But if you do not have this, i advice you book a pay – later ticket for, show, to back home. This way you will not have to much to proof to the immigration officer.
.What do you do?
It’s one of those many questions asked to prove that once you enter that country, you will be leaving to go back to your job instead of joining the black market inside the country and overstay your visit. If you say that you are a business person, have proof of this with you. Carry along you business invoices and pictures of goods that you sell.
How much money do you have with you?
A proof to show you will be in a position to take care of yourself while in the country and not engage into any black market business or start looking for a job. For Asian countries i travel around with an amount not less than 1,000 USd but for European countries at least 3,000 USd in cash. You might be asked to show the money. This amounts apply to those traveling solo as a tourist. They mostly don’t consider the money in a bank card.
The idea is for you to not travel a long way from home, arrive in a country and get denied entry. It is a matter of proving that you are who you are saying you are, going in with the same reasons you are talking about and to do exactly that.
Africans travel’s too, and they travel big. Enjoy your travel and don’t let anything hinder you from seeing the world.
Did you enjoy reading? PIN and SHARE with friends.