Stand-By Visa Issues
“You do not need an Australian visa if you are transferring flights.”
That is what my airline patron said. That is what the airline agent who booked my ticket told me. That is what the Australian Government website said.
My gut said differently. My gut said, “Double check this, and then triple check it.” And there, hidden deep in the basement of the Australian Border Guard’s website, as a footnote of the fine print, it said that stand-by travellers did need a VISA.
Lesson 1: Always double-check the VISA requirements of any country you are going to or travelling through. Do not assume that you can transfer through a country without a visa. And don’t take anybody’s word for the visa requirements. Check the country’s government sites!
Lesson 2: If you fly stand-by, you need to triple check that there aren’t special rules for you!
My plane was leaving in 18 hours. To get a transfer visa I had to print out a form, fill it out, send it to the embassy, wait for acceptance via snail mail and then I was ready to go!
I despaired. I was not going to be able to take my flight. I had only a few more days left on my US visa. Where was I going to go? Damn it, damn it and damn it again!
I told myself that I could cry about spilled milk later. Right now, I had to get creative. Was there really no way to get this transfer visa quicker?
No, there wasn’t. But an ordinary Australian tourist visa for Swedish travellers is a quick electronic form, and is auto approved unless you’ve been to Afghan training camps or had similar past times.
Lesson 3: Don’t give up! Despair can quickly dull your mind and stop you from finding your way to a solution.
The Ambassador of Narnia
“No sir, your bags can’t be checked through to New Zealand. You travel stand-by, and you may not make the second flight. So you will have to go through customs in Australia, pick up your bag, check it back in and then go through security.”
Two hours. I had to do all of that in two tiny little hours! Well, with a massive amount of luck, I might make it.
The line to customs was so long that it spilled out into the corridor leading into the customs hall. I estimated it to take at least two hours to get through.
I pushed back the despair (learn from your lessons!) and looked for another option. I saw the customs line for diplomats. It was empty. “Fuck it,” I thought to myself and ran up to the desk. “I’m about to miss my flight,” I said. “I can’t wait in that line.”
The passport controller nodded, stamped my passport and let me through. That was it! I didn’t even have to use my “I’m the ambassador of Narnia” gag.
Lesson 4: Be brazen and see what you can get away with. Often the worst that can happen is that you are turned down, which is nothing to fear.
Abandon Your Baggage
The clock was ticking and my bag just wasn’t showing up. I had to get it in time to check it in and get through security, all in time to find my gate on get on my flight.
Tick tock. Tick tock. Tickety-tockety.
It was clear that I was going to miss my flight, unless… Time for another unconventional move on my jagged journey to New Zealand. So, on the advice of a member of airport staff, I abandoned my bags, walked up to the ambassador customs gate, talked my way back into the secure zone (!) and caught my flight.
Before leaving the New Zealand airport, I filed a missing bag report. The next day, the bags were delivered to my door.
Lesson 5: If in trouble, ask a member of staff. They know the system better than you do!
Lesson 6: Always make sure that you have enough stuff in your carry-on to keep you going for a couple of days. You never know when you might lose your bags.
Lesson 7: Seriously, grow some brass balls (or ovaries) and never give up!