I have a full-time job. By Jordanian standards I have a decent job – as a presenter on the drivetime programme of a local radio station.
Once a year I feel entitled to go on a summer vacation and for a week or two forget about everything else that matters. And why shouldn’t I?
Oh right, cause I’m an Arab…
Your average hard worker with a first world citizenship will pick a destination, purchase a plane ticket, book a hotel (maybe), go on holiday and return to their routine feeling fulfilled.
As an Arab – a Jordanian at least – it’s a little more complicated:
Step 1. Choose a destination
Step 2. Discover that it requires a pre-approved visa. Nine out of 10 times it’s a Schengen country. Even then you must apply at the country of entry’s embassy.
Step 4. Check to see if chosen destination has an embassy in your country. No? Change destination accordingly.
Step 3. Begin collecting all the paperwork for the visa application process. Let’s start with the hotel booking – better know your exact dates and destinations. NOW.
Step 4. Book a flight – buy it now, you gamble. Buy it later, you pay double – sometimes triple. Expedia? Not an option.
Step 5. Request a certificate of employment on official letterhead stating your position, salary, start date, status, etc.
Step 6. Obtain official signed/stamped bank statements showing your account history for the past six months. Screw privacy.
Step 7. Have your picture taken with unnecessarily specific requirements… again.
Step 8. Insure yourself for the dates of your travel. Fair enough.
Step 9. Fill out an application form. Ahh, how humiliating. In order to lounge on your beaches and sample your cuisine I must answer questions like: have you been involved in terrorist activities or organisations? Or what countries have you entered in the last 10 years and on what dates and for what purpose? Are. You. Serious? And my absolute favorite, what do you plan to do while in [said country]? Umm, eat fish, drink beer, swim in the sea, walk along cobblestone streets… Why do you think it’s called a tourist visa? Never mind that some of these applications are 12 pages long but how do you expect me to retrieve all this information and then sign a declaration stating that it’s all accurate?
Step 10. Pay an absurd sum of money for the non-refundable visa fee – usually between $100 and $150 (makes me feel better about Jordan increasing its visa fee to JD 40 – actually no, that’s stupid too).
Step 11. Book an appointment. It’s June and you want to travel in July? First appointment’s available a month from now? Processing time is 2-3 weeks? Sure, sign me up.
Step 12. Experience the equivalent of a criminal interrogation. One of the dates in your 12-page application is a day off the date stated in your hotel booking? No problem, you can submit it as is and risk rejection or come back with the correct paperwork and delay your application. Not much money in your bank account? That’s the equivalent of saying “hi, I want to enter your country to live and work illegally, use up all your public resources, and never come back.”
Step 13. Wait impatiently for a response. Even a rejection will do at this point. Of course calling to track your application is like asking whether unicorns exist. “We don’t know, we can’t ask, that information is classified.”
Step 14. The nightmares begin. You dream that you’re off to the airport to begin your holiday but discover that your passport isn’t with you because it’s still at the embassy.
Step 15. You get the call. Somehow you manage to survive the mini heart attack en route to collect your passport. You look inside and THERE IT IS! Congratulations on getting your single-entry visa that’s valid for exactly 10 days!
Step 16. Now for all those tickets and bookings you have to pay for. You multiply your vacation budget by three because damn it you have a visa and you’re gonna use it.
Step 17. You travel to your destination, blink once, blink twice and suddenly you’re back at work again.
Happy friggin’ summer holidays to my fellow Arab travelers.