Recently I completed listening to Tom Friedman's "World is Flat" on an audiobook had to agree with a lot of his statements, especially given how my life has been spawned over several countries and continents in the last decade. But when it comes to immigration requirements - I have to tell Mr Friedman - The world is still has a while to go before it really becomes more flat. Ofcourse Mr Friedman wouldnt mind - his book seemed a lot more focussed on how Americans (And ppl in developed countries) should innovate than worry abt ppl from developing countries are competing with them in brilliant ways.
Even though this post might could not be any more ill-timed given the recent developments (Terrorist attempts which were foiled) in the UK-Heathrow airport about it is still true: Travelling for most immigrants who are not part of the developed western world is not a walk in the park. Most of my American colleagues and good friends' vacation plans start and stop at scheduling tours, vacation packages, hotel and OOF (Out of Office) notices at Microsoft - they can walk into most countries for 90 days and out with just their passport, and credit cards.
On the 3rd edition of my "Hello World" Tours (I was lucky to go to abt 12 countries in Western Europe for 45 days after school in 2004, Egypt in 2005) - The plan for this year is to make it to Berlin and Prague during Labor Day Week for which as an Indian passport holder - I need 2 Visas.
Enter the concept of the "Tourist Visa" - the most easy annuity revenue for most countries. At an average of 50$ a pop the tourist visa for most countries last abt 30 days (Czech/Switzerland) - 2 yrs (Canada). But if the expenses do not get to you and the varied levels of paperwork required in propreitary formats: copies of insurance, bank statements, payslips, Tax forms, birth certificates etc - just raises your frustration - The fluctuating exchange rates (and therefore visa fees) combined with the non-updated websites - makes ur hands curl into fists - its the photo requirement that is usually the last straw that ultimately makes u ram that fist through a corkboard on the wall. Newton's third law does the rest. Action and reaction are equal and opposite. Well when your knuckles showcase the pain that your brain has had over the last few days in the immigration, Newtonian physics is the least of your issues.
The American Immigration which is one of the most stringent that I have faced have strict rules on their photos but the German "photo police" raised that bar in their document of "FotoMusterafel 2005" where it shows how you cant move, smile, laugh, turn, tilt or do anything but look like you were a zombie. A Zombie with all necessary documents. There are lot of similarities with the American rules - but the Germans also suggested that flash reflection on your face is Verboten! A little light on your glass? Nein Das ist verboten auch!
Ofcourse I do what every independent, self confident, well educated person from the biggest socialist democractic country in teh world would do - Comply to the last word.
But it does make me wonder - Why is this example (of Erika Mustermann) on the german photo-requirements website not complying to any of the guidelines mentioned in the FotoMusterafel 2005? But then again I cant figure out why an "Erika Mustermann" would apply for a German visa either.