Technically I am now “SDF” – sans domicile fixe- a PC term they use for the homeless in France, much proper I think than the term hobo used in the USA. Not resident of the Stade de France as someone asked me once. No fixed address. Yes I am a national of somewhere – Honduras – but I have not been residing there for the last 5 years, so technically I do not have residence there anymore. I had been SDF in a previous episode of adventure in my life, but no major problems surged. As a lawyer I knew the loopholes in legislations that let me get away with it. In this current episode of my life, being SDF is giving me problems.
I was a special “resident” in Belgium for 3 years, until January 31st 2010. I say special because I was posted there as a diplomat, so I was not a typical resident. We diplomats do not have the same rights and duties as a normal resident (yes I know special privileges and immunities…), but still I physically had “residence” in Belgium, although I was not registered as a diplomat. At the moment and for the last months I am physically ”residing” in Ireland, residence and home of my other half. But technically I am only a tourist, and in theory can only stay 3 months. I still do not know how Irish Immigration controls these 3 months, as the airport in Dublin is the only one in the world, that I know, that does not have an Immigration Control upon exiting the country. So here we are, based in Ireland doing all the preparations for our Year in Motion, trying to figure out how to obtain visas.
- Duration of visa:
Most countries that require a pre arrival visa (for me as a Honduran national, many countries) issue them for only 60 or 90 days; and from the date of issue, not the date of entry into their country. We are travelling for a year…
- Place of Issue:
This is the toughest one! Most of these countries that require a pre arrival visa, also require that you obtain it in the embassy or consulate of your place of residence, not in any of their embassies throughout the world… So where do I obtain it? I am SDF!
The Embassies in Dublin are refusing to grant me the visas due to the fact that I am not a “resident” here. I have tried to explain my situation, showing all the proof that I was a diplomat in Belgium, bla bla blab la…. They tell me to go get it in Belgium. In Belgium I am not a resident anymore, and most do not take applications by mail anyways (I can’t even fly for a month bc of a surgery scheduled I need to get before departure date) , AND on top are telling me I should apply in Honduras. I am NOT a resident in Honduras either, plus I am not physically there, or do I have any support documents (bank accounts, job references) in Honduras….And to make matters worse, none of these countries have a Diplomatic Mission in Honduras (if my family could do it for me)…so technically I would have to apply in the nearest one to Honduras.
So if I do try to apply to the nearest one to Honduras (with made up support documents), we would start the trip with a very negative balance on our budget as the cost of courier and express visa fee would be really high. Just imagine: Express Courier to Central America and back how many times? Obviously they will not forward my passport to the next embassy, I have to wait until it comes back for the next application. So not only is budget a big factor, but time. There is not enough time to do it, with their 60 and 90 day rules, even if I was willing to spend all the money required.
So what now? We are going around and around the conundrum through loopholes, and using all resources including contacts to apply for the visas of the countries we will visit during the first 90 days. The tough ones being: India, China, Russia, Mongolia, Syria. The Russia visa is even more complicated than this. The support documents they ask for is an “invitation”. For us that means our tickets for the Transsiberian train, which are sold only 45 days before the start of the journey… Yes we can “buy” this invitation from many intermediaries, but as I said before we are trying to keep the pre departure budget. If we start so negatively, we won’t be able to finish the year. BTW I do not understand how the Russians are so strict about this, and then grant you the visa on fake “invitations”…I can only imagine…Just charge me more for entering your country but do not give me this about obtaining an “invitation”.
Once in Delhi, India I will have to apply for my South Africa visa. That is the most shocking of all! Even though we have the official World Cup tickets valued at more than $6000.00, a very expensive campervan paid for, and I am a national whose country has qualified for the World Cup; they refuse to bend their tight rules even for visitors to the WC. No visas on arrival for Hondurans and valid only for 90 days after date of issue (including the 30 days we will be there). So my only hope is obtaining it in Delhi. The staff at the SA Embassy in Ireland told me they would give me no hassle at the Delhi Embassy about not being a resident in India…we’ll see…
And once in SA, I will have to apply for my next visas….for the next 90 days. No other choice. If they are as strict as the ones we are applying for, I will have no choice than to courier my passport from South Africa to wherever comes next, and juggle time.
With globalization and the current recession I would have thought that most countries would soften their tourism and visa policies. I believe the USA will always be paranoid about terrorism, but at least when they do grant you a visa it can be valid for up o to 10 years; although you should expect the usual immigration officer harassment, the ‘I have this special supernatural power over you’ attitude, and just go with the flow. Even the European Union countries have a visa waiver for most nationalities (including mine) for 3 or 6 months.
I sincerely doubt that I will try to stay illegal in South Africa, Russia, China, India, Mongolia or Syria and that I will want to live there forever and ever. I am already happy being SDF! I am only a tourist who will bring money into other countries, please stop giving me so much trouble! Yes, countries have the right to allow whomever they wish into their countries. Just give a 15 or 30 day visa free entry into the countries, tourism is a great income. And if you can’t do that, yes continue screening tourists, but stop giving people such a hard time about having to apply in their country of residence, or having an “invitation”.
I am not a terrorist, I do not even have a criminal record, I have ties to ‘home’ , I have more than sufficient means, just because I am a explorer, adventurer, resident of the world SDF… This hassle is unnecessary! All I want to do is and learn from the different cultures, have a better understanding of the diversity in Planet Earth. China was one of the destinations I was really excited and curious about. Now I am so dissuaded by their officials, that I am even thinking of skipping it and going to spend my hard earned money in friendlier places.