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Sounds kind of like a given to ensure your travel documents are in order before handing over your boarding pass, but take it from us that you should always have another look on that tourist visa or itinerary. It's easy to overlook little misspellings or transcribed numbers, so it is even more important to have someone else look it over to give it the thumbs up.
Here is our story; any American traveler wanting to enter Vietnam needs to obtain a visa. This is not an e-visa that can be purchased online and electronically attached to your passport number. This is one of those old-fashioned, visit-a-consulate or mail-away-your-passport to the nearest embassy situations. While it's a bit of a hassle, a side perk is that you do get a pretty colorful sticker in your passport to show all your friends.
If you are planning on heading to the 'Land Down Under' to escape the pending grip that winter will have on much of the US, you may be able to wiggle your toes in the sand a lot quicker after your plane touches down. The speed and ease of customs and immigration will be streamlined for selected passengers thanks to some reciprocity of Australia's SmartGate technology.
SmartGate allows Australian and New Zealand passport holders to quickly pass through customs with a swipe of their chip-enabled passport, collect a paper receipt and head to the special computerized gates. After inserting a receiptsimilar to a parking garage tickettravelers get a facial recognition scan and, if all goes well, the gates open up to collect luggage. This clears up the massive winding lines we have all encountered and which we all dread after a long flight.
Travel Alerts / Airport News / Airport Hell / Immigration / LHR / London Travel / Strikes / → All Tags
If you have had the
displeasure of traveling through London-Heathrow, you understand that long lines to get your passport stamped is a very common occurrence. Airport officials are well aware of the impact this will have on this summer's Olympic games and have taken steps to reduce the headaches.
For the sake of easing traveler frustration, the debate on how to reduce waiting time through immigration continues, and, frankly, hasn't resulted in much progress toward a solution. All of these debates will cause the ultimate airport hell: a strike.
2012 London Olympics / London Travel / Airports / Heathrow / Airport Security / Immigration / Travel News / → All Tags
There are 206 days to go until the 2012 Olympics in London, so trust that our U.K.-based sources will be bringing you all the latest as we continue ground coverage leading up to the Games: the touristy swarms clogging up Westminster and the Southbank, the Cultural Olympiad, the general excuse for even more drunken revelry than usual, the works.
To kick off 2012, a word to the wise among summer travelers set to pass through Heathrow around the Games: you might have to face even more unbearable lines at airport immigration owing to a VIP passport lane being established strictly for athletes. The U.K. Border Agency will be taking and checking biometric data (translation: fingerprints) from visiting athletes, with lanes at immigration dedicated solely to the task of checking said data.
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Sydney Airport has just gotten smarter: passengers with modern e-Passports arriving in Sydney now have the option of going through SmartGate, which means they can go through passport control without speaking to a real person.
At the 12 SmartGate kiosks now operating at the airport, travelers can insert their e-Passport to be scanned, then answer the standard declaration questions on a touchscreen. After that they are issued with a ticket, take it to the exit, insert it there and then the camera scans them to check they are the person shown in the passport.
Immigration / Borders / Visas / UK Travel / → All Tags
The guy probably had it all planned out before they searched his bags. A Mexican national, he declared his intent to visit a few friends in the U.K. before returning back home via Los Angeles. But his suitcase told a different story, and after customs found a note from a friend wishing him a "new life," he was forced to confess that he was planning to stay and work illegally -- and subsequently deported.
He's not alone: After years of relative open-door policies, the three leading British political parties are all calling for greater regulation of who gets into Britain, which could mean trouble for long-haul travelers without visas. And, spurred by a report from the Office of National Statistics which showed that some 214,000 foreign nationals had gained jobs in the U.K. while 278,000 Brits had lost theirs, most of the country is behind them.
The new policies include fingerprinting all visa applicants and tacking fees onto the entry visas for various countries, but it may also mean turning up the heat on legitimate vacationers. Perhaps packing a datebook showing you have something to get back to wouldn't be a bad idea.
· Hasta la vista, baby [Reuters]
· UK slump poses challenge to support for an open economy [The Australian]
· New visa regulations may harm UK tourism [ASAP.co.uk]
· 2008: UK Stepping Up Its Immigration Game [Jaunted]
The care-free days of non-US citizens flying into the country with just a little green form in their hand ended this week. If you're from one of the countries that belonged to the visa waiver program, you'd better listen up so you're not turned back at the border on your next visit to the United States.
Now you need to know about the Electronic System for Travel Authorization, or ESTA, which basically requires that travelers visiting the US apply for permission to enter the country at least 72 hours before they arrive. You use a simple form online and there's no cost attached, so there's not too much to complain about--except that if you don't do it in advance then you'll probably get sent home.
Once you get "approved," your permission lasts for two years, so frequent travelers don't need to keep hopping online. ESTA affects citizens of most European countries, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Korea, Singapore and Brunei, so if that's you, don't forget to get online before you fly. No complainin' that we didn't warn you, alright?
The strong pros for visiting Southeast Asia (awesome food, beautiful countries, kind people, cheap) balance out its hardy cons (killer language barrier, suffocating climate, pricey plane travel). Soon, a coalition of countries will tip the scales in the favor of travelers--and we'll be booking our flights right quick.
Last week, delegates from Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam came together in Hanoi to talk about creating a five-country, single-visa tourism scheme. The reduction in costs and headaches for travelers will be close to immeasurable--and it's a savvy move for leaders who want to boost their tourism revenues. This means one price, one stamp and we can pass through all five countries with ease, no shady border crossings, no bribes and no giving up valuable passport space for stamps from other cool places.
The Cambodian and Vietnamese reps agreed to allow 14-day, cross-border travel for any of their citizens holding a passport. This part of the pact goes into effect December 4. Summit attendees also suggested a "travel card" that Southeast Asian businesspeople could use to travel, without needing any visa, to all five countries. Those of us not lucky enough to come from SEA may have to wait a little longer to collect our pass, but the Cambodia-Vietnam agreement is a show of good faith and an indication this plan has serious potential.
Last month, we were worried that the fallout from this Hugo Chavez speech might lead to new fees for American tourists brave enough to travel to Venezuela. But instead it's Argentina that's planning to levy an entry fee on Americans, Australians, Canadians and others, starting January 1.
Interior Minister Florencio Randazzo says charging foreign nationals $134 upon their entry into Argentina is payback for the visa fee his people have to pay when heading to other countries:
We feel that it's an injustice that an Argentine goes to the United States and has to pay $134 for a visa.
For what it's worth, this doesn't mean visitors have to actually apply for a visa; the charge, which covers you for 10 years, is simply a "fee of reciprocity" that will ostensibly go toward "modernizing immigration posts throughout the country."
[Photo of Buenos Aires' Immigration Museum: Wikimedia]
Passports / Visas / Immigration / UK Travel / → All Tags
It may soon get harder to visit the UK--at least if your a national of one of 11 countries now off the so-called visa-waiver list. The idea, says the UK Border Agency, is to keep tabs on those people who might endanger the country. But among the 11 are Brazil, Malaysia, South Africa and Trinidad and Tobago, places that you might not associate with scary stuff.
The Border Agency says it plans to work with the governments in question to see if they can't stay on the visa-waiver list; a final decision won't be made until early 2009. But should risk reduction not be seen, even more foreign visitors will have to submit fingerprints and get a visa before arriving in the UK. The new rules would mean that Britain requires visas of 80 percent of the world's population.
When the US clamped down of visiting foreigners after 9/11, many countries didn't appreciate it. In probably the most famous show of displeasure, Brazil decided to charge Americans $100 per visa starting in 2004 in retaliation for what its citizens had to pay to visit the states. A pro-tourism group in the UK is worried the same thing might happen to the British as a result of the ever-widening visa net.
We might have been excited about passport free travel within the European Union, but actually getting into Europe might prove a bit more troublesome in the coming years.
The European Commission--basically the government of Europe--has begun discussions on requiring all visitors entering the EU to submit to fingerprinting and perhaps other biometric checks such as digital photos or iris scans. Some critics are unimpressed, like Privacy International, which said:
It's boys with toys. They want to have the toys the Americans have.
Whatever the decision, such a system wouldn't be implemented until 2015 at the earliest, so we shouldn't have to suffer US-style immigration queuing in Europe just yet.
We might've named the United States the destination of the year for 2007, but the UK Times says "No thanks" to an American vacation in '08. After all, says writer Matt Rudd, you can get a better gaucho experience in Spain or Argentina, gamble on a wilder vacay in Macao, find a cooler road trip in Australia and ski easier in St. Moritz. And all without the hassles of the American customs and immigration officers!
A preflight e-interrogation, epic queues at immigration, thin-lipped questioning from aggressive border guards and an outside chance of a rubber-gloved rectal rummage are all part of the fun. So, if Chertoff and Co. want to tighten Fortress America further, it's time we considered other more welcoming holiday options. Such as Iran or North Korea.
Guess that warm and fuzzy tourist-luring video of Niagara Falls isn't doing the trick.
· Travel to America? No Thanks. [UK Times]
· 2007 Awards: Destination of the Year [Jaunted]
· Immigration Video Totally Boring, Inaccurate [Jaunted]
· United States Travel coverage [Jaunted]