Of Hobbits and Immigration Officers

Air New Zealand

The trip from Miami to Melbourne was the longest journey ever. I traveled from Miami to Los Angeles to Auckland to Melbourne.

The journey from Miami to Los Angeles on American Airlines Economy was as comfortable as could be. It’s depressing to say that because it’s actually not a comfortable flight, but my expectations of domestic flights have sunk deeper than the Titanic.

Once upon a time, when flying across the country, you got a pillow, blanket, headset, and complimentary drinks and snacks. If the plane was modern, every seat had its own TV and you could enjoy a few movies, television shows, music, and maybe even games. Those days are over. The only thing you get now is complementary water (a cup, not a bottle) and you can opt to buy an overpriced Handi-Snack. The plane I was on from Miami to L.A. didn’t have individual TVs, just a program for the entire cabin. The movie was Guilt Trip. I decided to read instead.

It was a beautiful day in Los Angeles, which was fortunate because I had to take a long stroll outside from one terminal to another. On arrival, I paid too much for a cheeseburger and a lemonade and spent the rest of my layover reading.

The flight to Auckland was on Air New Zealand, which I’d never flown on before. I’ve always flown on Qantas. It was a pleasant flight, the crew was very friendly and helpful, and the food was pretty good. However, there were no signs of hobbits, elves, dwarves, or Richard Simmons. I felt swindled. So, given that there were no Middle Earth residents or Richard Simmons, all other things being equal, I prefer Qantas. The food is tastier and more abundant and the choices of movies on Qantas has been larger and better.

I had a layover in Auckland and then it was on to Melbourne. I start to get a little desperate at this point because the finish line was so close, but usually there’s another hour or two to go to get through passport control and customs. To my pleasant surprise, there was no line in passport control. None at all and I got through in just a couple of minutes, but there was an immigration agent waiting for me.

The five-minute conversation was so aggressive and unexpected that it felt like it lasted about five seconds during which I said something about as coherent as, “Cold is with the monkey’s ears and toes.”

The agent asked me why I was in Australia; because my boyfriend lives here. Then she said I couldn’t keep doing this. She didn’t really specify what “this” was, but went on to repeat several times that I’m not really a tourist. But I have a 12-month visa, I said, and she ignored me. I’m going to apply for a partner visa over the next few months, but “you can’t keep doing this,” she repeated, “You’re not really a tourist”. I asked her what the correct process would be then. “You get married,” she said. “Or apply offshore. That’s what you should have done.” I felt trapped by the first answer and the second ignored the fact that Theo and I have to live together for 12 months before I can apply for the de facto visa. In my haze of weariness and surprise, I said nothing. She said, “Next time, we won’t let you in.” She returned my arrival card and on I went.

I’m glad to be back in Melbourne and back home with Theo. I’m not enjoying the cold and rainy weather or that it’s completely dark out by 6pm, but I’m looking forward to getting back into the swing of things here and continuing to get to know places and meet new people. The encounter with the immigration agent left me shaken, but going to try and not worry about things until there’s something to worry about. Over the next couple of weeks, I’ll be reviewing the paperwork again and getting started on the journey towards residence.

Comments

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10 Comments

  1. Welcome back Cosette! Pity about your encounter with the immigration agent. I know she is just doing her job however surely she could have approached it differently and much nicer. Obviously got up grumpy that particular morning. I’m sure once you saw Theo it made things just a touch better.
    Fingers crossed that everything will sort itself out in time and all will be well.
    By the way……as a Melbournian I should be used to this changing cold miserable weather however I still cannot take it. The good thing is that these days make for great late night “old classic” movie nights rugged up with your other half and a hot drink.
    🙂 Take Care and enjoy life!

  2. Ugh, I had a conversation with a Canadian citizen today during a bus ride from Philly to NYC about American immigration. I hate US immigration with a passion–I won’t get into it but just leave it at that. I guess it’s kind of the same deal worldwide, but that woman had no right to be such a bully! Most of them have no idea what they’re talking about.

    • Oh, indeed this is not an Oz versus U.S. issue. The process can be quite a nightmare in the U.S. as well. Big egos, power trips, little knowledge, and even less efficiency.

  3. Good luck with the process, I am like you having to wait a year, we will be filing in June, all the paperwork is pretty much done and we have an appointment with Immigration to file.. I have not left Australia since coming so i have not had to go thru what you did.

    • It was strange because, according to the conditions of my current visa, I can come and go as many times as I want until it expires. Best of luck with your process, Duane. Come back and tell me how it goes.

  4. Just because that woman said they wouldn’t let you in next time doesn’t mean anything. And technically, it’s called a visitor visa, not a tourist visa, and you are a visitor. (I assume you are on this one: http://www.immi.gov.au/visas/visitor/600/) You’re abiding by the rules of your visa and there is no rule saying you can’t come and go as you are doing. You and Theo aren’t engaged and, afaik, don’t have plans to become engaged and then married at this point, and you don’t qualify as de facto partners yet, so the agents suggestion that you get married is silly. There’s no rule saying how often you can visit a romantic interest. The only rule is that every three months, you have to spend at least one day off shore. And you’ve clearly done that. However, you might do better to apply for this visa (http://www.immi.gov.au/visitors/tourist/676/) next time or look at other visa options. I suspect that woman was just having a bad day and being grouchy. A border agent at the UK once threatened not to let me in again because I had come and gone so many times in one year and he even threatened to deport me. I was dragged off to be interrogated, fingerprinted, photographed, etc and ended up with a “special” stamp in my passport … but the next time I came through, I had no trouble at all. It really depends on the person. It’s highly unlikely that you would be refused entry as long as you have a valid visa, but for peace of mind, look into your other options.

    • Thanks for your support. I have a 12-month 676 visa, which allows me to travel back and forth “for tourism purposes or to visit family and friends” as much as I want until it expires (definitely for the latter reason in my case). I plan to apply for the de facto visa soon. Hopefully, it won’t be an issue.

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