I write this having spent 9 hours in the immigration department of a South East Asian country (I won’t tell you which one, the picture above is an old visa not necessarily the country I am talking about!) trying to get a Visa extension for 30 days so I can stay in the country. As a tourist I will be spending my hard earned cash on hotel rooms, food, drink, souvenirs, just like my fellow tourists. You would think that countries would make it very easy for tourists to stay and spend money in their country, after all, it benefits their economy, especially developing South East Asian economies.
So why Visas anyway?
The main reason for requiring a visa to visit a country is security. This allows countries to control who enters their country and for how long. I understand this argument, if it works. Sadly, those that wish to cause harm and terror can easily get around the passport and visa requirements for any country, if visa’s worked like they should then there would be no international terrorism right?
Of course there are other ways visa’s control who enters the country. With different types of visa’s, education, employment, tourist, countries are able to see who is in the country and for what purpose. If someone applies for continued tourist visas then red flags may come up against a person suspecting them of working illegally. Having an employment visa will mean they must have a work permit and pay income tax in most countries, so this I understand is good for the economy.
Could we get rid of Visas completely?
There is an argument to say visas are no longer required in today’s modern world. Many countries have reciprocal arrangements where visas are not required between the two countries. In theory visas could be abolished but it would be a brave country in modern times to abolish visas for all nationalities. If they did, people could just enter the countries using their passport and landing card, which brings me onto another bone of contention!
What is the point of Landing Cards?
Landing cards have a number of uses for a country. Firstly, they say exactly when and where the person entered the country. Obtaining a visa usually gives the person a set time period to enter the country, the landing card will confirm when that person actually entered. Secondly, many countries use the landing cards as customs agreements or terms and conditions agreements. When you sign the landing card you are essentially agreeing to the terms and conditions of the country and therefore have no come back if you do anything illegal that is prescribed on the card. Many landing cards will explicitly tell you drug trafficking, money laundering etc are all illegal in their country. Thirdly, landing cards act as a census for the country you are entering. Often you are required to give details such as income, occupation, previous or next destinations, this helps a country to see where their tourists are coming from or going.
Now this is all well and good but are they actually inputted on a system or merely stored away somewhere for safekeeping and bought out when required. I sense in some countries it is the latter which makes the other uses of the card largely irrelevant. If someone is meticulously inputting data into a computer for hundreds of thousands of tourists then I hope they are getting paid well for it!
Is there a better alternative to Visas and Landing Cards?
If you want to get rid of both visas and landing cards and just enter with a passport this provides the country with very little information. All the country will know is that you have entered the country and where, it will give no information about exact location or intention. Of course, this information can be faked but I think visas and landing cards will be around for the foreseeable future whilst there are still crazy terrorists around trying to strike fear into other countries.
Officials need to think about the experience of the average person
What I will say though is that my experience was not pleasant, and countries should try to make ordinary people feel welcome rather than criminals. The vast majority of people are law abiding citizens who just want to travel the world. These should be welcomed and obtaining a visa should be made as easy and efficient as possible.