Craig Gibbons' Lifeblog lifeblog://tri.eat.net

8Aug/060

An afternoon at the US Embassy

There have been times when I have cursed my South African heritage. Usually it occurs while observing a rugby spectator, prone to dronk verdriet, sporting a new springbok jersey stretched over a monsterous boep brandishing a castle lager and a piece of droewors, but there is another equally distateful experience, that of waiting at an embassy of one country or another for some disinterested, tired, bored and generally disgruntled civil servant to process a visa application. To date, I have experienced only one pleasurable (mmm, that may be a slight overstatement) visa acquisition experience, strangely enough, at the Hungarian embassy. The entire process took about 10 minutes and cost pretty much nothing. Contrast this with the experience of being relieved of yet another £100 for a 3 day visa to France and one starts to appreciate just how tiresome and frustrating this exercise can become.

So it was, with very little enthusiasm, that I began the process of obtaining a visa to visit the USA in October to run the Chicago Marathon. The process is simple, call a premium rate number and make an interview booking, pay an extortionate fee for the interview. Then wait 6 weeks for said interview and expect to be there for 4 - 5 hours. Once your number is called, your 2 minute interview complete and your application approved, pay still more money to have your passport couriered back to you 5 days later. During those uncomfortably long and sardined 5 hours, I had begun writing a blog entry, slating the US and their embassy for the most inefficient, insensitive and costly visa application process, but I must regrettably take it all back now. Whereas France sees fit to grant me only sufficient time for my hotel and several restaurants to extract their necessary revenue, the US has made what can only be described as a leap of faith by granting me a 10 year visa based on only a reference letter from my employer, a bank statement, a utility bill and a declaration that I never have been, and am not currently, affiliated to any terrorist organisation. Yeeee-ha, I'm a goin' to Chicago.

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