Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Well, that's the end of my adventures in being rejected from the UK. At least I hope that is the end, because if this comes back to haunt me when I embark on future adventures I'll be less than pleased.

(See end of post for Tips on How to Avoid Being Rejected by an Entire Country)

Right, well I'm back on the Island. My final night in Scotland was a grand one! I went out with Ailbhe and some for her friends to George Street, which is the somewhat posh street in Edinburgh, thus one that I rarely frequented when hanging out with fellow Canucks last year! I intended to remain sober so I would be ready for my meeting with Immigration the next day, but thanks to Ailbhe that intention went flying out the window. We ended up at a club called Why Not? which was full of pretentious people and an above average number of metrosexuals. The drinks, however, were cheap.

Four hours of sleep and a pizz haggis later and I was on my way to Glasgow airport. Was a bit nervous but ready to state my case for why I should be allowed to stay - I had my bank info, details re: the working holiday visa I had been on and a quote from Aus Travel for price of flight and work visa. And when I arrived at the airport I was told by Immigration that I wasn't having another meeting- they'd given me the wrong form when I left the Sunday previously - they'd given me a form that suggested some hope, when in fact there was no way out of it - I was going home.

On the plus side, I was escorted through the airport, didn't have to wait in any lines and didn't have to pay for my ticket or excess baggage (of which I had a lot). I had a lovely 5 hour conversation with my seatmate on the plane - she was in her 50's and returning to Canada after a holiday in Scotland. She was considering moving to the UK to work and live. How brilliant! See, it's never too late!

Upon arriving in Halifax(late), I gathered my luggage and headed for the exit, only to be told by Customs that I had to have my baggage searched. I don't think this had anything to do with my being denied entry in the UK - just another bit of random bad luck which has led me to conclude the trip to Scotland was never supposed to happen. I just haven't figured out why yet, and maybe I never will...

Anyways, I still contend that I just had a spot of bad luck on my entry to the UK and if it had been another day, another time or another officer I would have experienced no problems. That being said, I've certainly learned a few things from this experience and would now like to pass them along so that no one else ever has to experience the distress and inconvenience of being detained, interrogated and searched.

Tips on How to Avoid Being Rejected by an Entire Country

  • Tell the Truth. Admittedly, in this instance, telling the truth is what got me in trouble. I had a new passport and could easily have avoided mentioning my working holiday visa and I volunteered information about my Scottish bank account when asked about funds. That being said, if I had lied and they had detained me anyways, their search of my baggage would have been evidence of my lies and I'm sure their treatment of me would have been much, much worse. They could, for instance, have denied me entry into the country for the next three years and sent me home immediately. Anyway you look at it - honesty is always the best policy even if it doesn't always keep you from getting in trouble and , hey, it promotes good karma.
  • Get a Visitor Visa BEFORE You Leave. You don't normally need to do this, the visitor visa is provided by the Immigration official you are greeted by upon arrival in the country you are visiting. Getting one befoer you leave will provide extra insurance of an appeal, however, if you are detained and will lower the chance of being detained in the first place. You can contact the Embassy or High COmmission of the country you are visiting before you leave and determine how to go about obtaining this visa.
  • Have a Return or Onward Ticket. Heck, they just want to know you're going to leave when you say you are, so if you can easily do it, book that ticket. On the other hand, after what happened to me I question the wisdom of booking an onward ticket from a country UNTIL you are given entry into it. It's a chicken and egg and either way you dice it you are taking a risk
  • Carry Old Passports with You. I had a brand new passport, which didn't show my work visa for the UK or the numerous times I'd been accepted into countries as a visitor. The Immigration Officials asked for the old passport, but I was unable to provide it.
  • Have Proof of Funds. OK, no one carries wads of cash anymore, but for some reason Immigration seems to think that the amount of money you are carrying on you is somehow indicative of how you will be able to support yourself as a traveller or visitor. Pfft. It's just an easy way for them to deny someone entry if they so wish - they KNOW people use bank cards these days. So, beat them at their own game and carry recent statements from your bank back home or, if it doesn't cost too much, an official letter signed and stamped by the bank. Or I guess traveller's cheques would do the trick too.
  • Carry ONLY the Paperwork You Will Need in the Country. I was stupid and packed my resumes and cover letters, in anticipation of my arrival in Australia. It only occurred to me after I was rejected from the UK that my resumes were useless in any case because they had my Canadian contact details on them. But, yeah, they searched all my papers and wallet looking for some sort of evidence I was preparing to shack up and get a job in the UK. Of course, they didn't find it, but they found some things that they could use as circumstantial evidence.
  • Do NOT get Stroppy with the Officials. I didn't dare get into a heated debate with the officials.in fact I 'may' have kind of broke down, but in any case I highly recommend you not argue with them too much because a lot of people in Scotland told me Immigration folks are often on big power trips and tehy culd make things a lot worse very easily.
  • Arrive in a Smaller Airport. I didn't think Glasgow International would be problematic. I'd been told offiicials at Heathrow were downright scary. I highly doubt I'd be home today if I had landed in Edinburgh.
  • Time Your Arrival. Now maybe I'm being a bit paranoid here, but I DID arrive near the end of the calendar month and if officials have quotas, well then I was a Sitting Canuck wasn't I? In addition, if you can manage to arrive in the evening, after a daytime flight, I highly recommend it. I arrived after 26 hours of non-sleep and so my ability to think and answer questions had deteriorated dramatically.
  • Have Proof of Your Intentions. If you say you are a tourist, a tour guide book and the such might be a good idea. That being said, I had a BritRail pass , which the Immigration folks chose to ignore as evidence of my claim that I was visiting/traveling.
  • Have a Story About Your Plans Following Travel. Even though I didn't intend to return to Canada for over a year, they still cited my uncertainty about what I would do upon return as a reason for refusal. Evidently saying I was planning to further my education was not detailed enough. Perhaps I should have said I was planning to move into a brothel and sell crack on the side. Maybe that would have been specific anough.

Above all, be ready to accept whatever fate is delivered to you. There is nothing you can do about it so take advantage of the Duty Free shop as you depart and remember - they won't charge you excess baggage on your way home!!!

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