Vexed by Visa Problems

May 26, 2016

in Airport Stories

My husband and I recently took a trip to Australia from the USA to visit his ailing elderly father. I am an American citizen, and my husband is an Australian national and is also an alien resident in the USA. This is partially his fault.

Flying with United, we tried to check in for our flights via the mobile app, but we kept getting an error message. I know that sometimes these apps don’t work right, so I didn’t stress. We arrived at Rapid City Regional Airport two hours early to check in, and explained that we tried checking in via the app, but it didn’t work. The agent entered my husband’s info into the computer, and all was well. She shrugged and assured us that it must be a glitch. She then entered my info and got an error message. “It says you need a visa.”

Although he does not need a visa to enter either country, I need one to visit Australia. All of the previous times I have been there, he has taken charge of securing my visa, and this time was no different. The last time I visited, my visa confirmation email stated that my visa was good for as long as my passport was valid, which means I have another four years on it. He double checked this detail on the Australian government website, and thus confirmed that I was good to go. We explained this to her, but she insisted that she needed a “confirmation number” to enter into the computer. “It’s a big long number with like ten digits or something.” She tried for quite a while to enter numbers, but each time was rejected. I was worried.

She then called her supervisor, who called someone else, who told her that my visa was NOT valid, and I needed to apply for a new one. My husband showed her the email that said that my visa would be good for as long as my passport was valid. “I think they just changed that” was the answer. “Haha. Don’t worry, we will get you on your little vacation!” She was entirely too chipper, and it was annoying. Now I was worried and annoyed.

Not people to lament and wring our hands, we sprung to action. I used my phone to apply online for a new visa. I entered all of my info, paid by credit card, and waited for the confirmation email. Finally it came. “Dear Mrs. Creepingjennie, Thank you for applying for an entry visa… we have received your info and payment… you will receive confirmation of acceptance in five days…”

FIVE DAYS?

My heart sank. I wasn’t going to make it. My husband used his phone to give it a try. This time he applied to the Australian end, not the website to be accessed outside of Australia. The websites are not optimized for mobile phone use, and many of the drop down menus jump around or disappear. Very frustrating when you have fat fingers and your hands are shaking. Finally he entered all of the info, and paid once again with his credit card. In about ten minutes I had an email. “Dear Mrs. Creepingjennie, Thank you for applying for an entry visa… we have received your info and payment… you will receive confirmation of acceptance within thirty minutes.” By this time they had just announced that my flight was boarding.

Then I received another email. “The name entered on your visa application does not match the name on your passport… please make the required changes and resubmit…” My husband had transposed ONE letter of my middle name. “Oh that’s not a big deal. No one really cares about that. Hahahaha!” chirped the agent. She was on the phone, attempting to contact someone in Australia on my behalf. I had lost hope. I slumped to the floor and cried. My husband and the gate agent, and other nearby agents who had gathered to witness the spectacle, were a blur.

“We got it!” the overly positive gate agent triumphantly announced, slamming the phone into its cradle. I was incredulous! She handed me my boarding pass, and I dug into my carry-on bag and handed her a package of chocolates that were meant to go into my mother-in-law’s lolly jar when we arrived. I thanked her for doing a great job and putting up with the emotional mess that I was, and ran to catch our flight. We weren’t even the last to board! Just as I sat down and buckled up, my phone went off. It was an email confirming the acceptance of my visa.

Lesson learned: Always apply for a new visa each time you travel, and don’t leave it for someone else to do!

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Mordor December 1, 2016 at 2:31 pm

Oh my, I experienced exactly that last May. It seems to be a common problem with the Australian Visa system – while it's a very straightforward website it can generate a lot of grief if you don't pay attention to the info you put on it.
In my case I was flying a (very long) way from Brazil to Australia with a whole day layover in Los Angeles. It sounds crazy but the ticket price was a steal and I didn't mind taking a Saturday afternoon hike in Hollywood before enduring the 16 hour long flight from LAX to Melbourne.
So, late afternoon I went to the United counter and asked if I could check in, the mid-aged lady was very kind, she said "sure thing", took my passport and papers and started working on her computer. Everything was great until she said: "Ops…your visa ain't valid. Your name is different from your passport, you need to apply for a new Australian visa…"
Needless to need to say I went blank. What??? How would I do that on a Saturday…and in Australian it was already Sunday…there would be no way.
Hopefully after I asked her where was the highest point around LAX I could jump from, she pointed my to the Qantas counter down at Tom Bradley Terminal, saying that "they might help you, good luck".
I ran there from Terminal 8 like Speedy Gonzales on stimulants and to my despair there was nothing Qantas to be seen. I asked the security woman about it and she said their flight was scheduled to begin check in procedures some 3 hours later…. oh crap.
Those were the longest 3 hours in my life. Finally I see an airport employee pushing some Qantas vertical signs into the check in counters area. I followed him closely and as soon as he rested in front of the counter I stood there, right ON the yellow line.
In the end this Qantas girl (whom I love now) unscrewed the whole thing in 5 minutes with a phone call.
All because two stupid letters that I neglected to write on the visa form ("JR" from Junior).
When i asked her whether that was a common thing she rolled her eyes and said "almost everyday!".

Reply

Andrew Beagle January 8, 2017 at 1:13 pm

This was an incident that was clearly in your power. Shame on you.

Reply

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