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Applying for a visa: Aaargh!!!

Brand Jamaica!!

Brand Jamaica!!

I am PROUD to be Jamaican. It’s a non-detachable part of my psyche and my socialization. My national pride is reflected in my distinctive accent, my “we-can-do-all-things-we-set-out-to-do” confidence, and a hearty appreciation of our indigenous delicacies like patties, jerked meats and the national dish – ackee and saltfish. Regardless of where I go, and the pleasure I derive from exploring far-flung destinations, there’s just no substitute for our food, our culture, the landscapes, our people and that irreplaceable island swag.

But sometimes, just sometimes…I wish I carried a second passport.

The evolution of the Jamaican passport

The evolution of the Jamaican passport

The challenges and inconveniences some passport holders like myself face when planning trips can be disheartening and downright annoying. Not only does the need to apply for a visa limit spontaneity in vacation trips, it also can impede our ability to work as well. What’s more, the process is costly and quite invasive. Depending on the country and category of visa needed, application requirements may include all or some of the following:

  • a job letter
  • a bank statement
  • police background checks
  • biometrics (i.e. fingerprinting)
  • proof of itinerary (airline and hotel reservations)
  • an invitation letter, conference attendance documentation etc.

And, let’s not even talk about the fees!

Passpot rank varies by country (PHoto courtesy of grcity.com)

It gets on my nerves occasionally, because sometimes I just can’t be bothered with the hassle. Thankfully, I’ve never been denied a visa but the hoops I have had to jump through to travel to Egypt, London, Brazil, China, Europe, and the Cayman Islands are noteworthy. The easiest process I ever had was with Dubai. It wasn’t even a stamp in my passport; the entry visa was delivered via email.

In former roles, I also missed two opportunities to go on work-related trips to Anguilla because it is a British Overseas Territory, and I needed a UK visa to get in. Yet, I was able to travel to the Turks and Caicos (another UK Overseas Territory) multiple times with my Jamaican passport and US resident card. So, clearly the rules are not consistent.

In a recent study, Jamaica ranked 98 in the Global Passport Power Rank 2016 index, with a visa-free score of 77. That means Jamaican passport holders have visa-free access to 46 countries and can obtain a visa on arrival at an additional 31. Other Caribbean neighbors rank much higher:  Barbados (132), Bahamas (129), Antigua & Barbuda (124), St Kitts and Nevis (124), and Trinidad and Tobago (12). See the link with a full country listing here.

Where does your passport rank, and have you had any challenges getting to where you need to go?

 

2 thoughts on “Applying for a visa: Aaargh!!!

  1. Karyn

    I have to say that I have never found getting a visa a deterrent to travel…it has always been ‘just one of the things you have to do’. Perhaps my passport is viewed with more leniency that the Jamaican passport, but it has usually been a pretty straight forward, drop off in the morning/collect in the afternoon process in most cases; even less in some. But now, as TnT no longer needs a visa for Europe and for many other places I WANT to visit, I’m wondering if it’s worth the trouble to get a Visa for the US…definitely one of the most invasive and time consuming processes….why bother??

    1. globetrotter Post author

      A “drop off in the morning/collect in the afternoon” process? Consider yourself, lucky! The shortest length of time I’ve had for visa processing has been three to four days (Mexico) and the irony is, I never even ended up using it. What’s more, imagine living in a country that has no embassies or full-service consulates. Then you have to buy an airline ticket to be present for your visa interview, if one is required. After that, you then have to buy another ticket to get to where you wanted to visit in the first place. All visas are definitely NOT created equal. lol

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