Traveling the world can be a beautiful dream. The dream came true when I packed my bags and left sunny Barcelona for the sunnier Philippines. Elliot Trotter and I met in Manila, and our Ultimate Globe Trotter journey started with a quick one-hour flight to Boracay Island.
Once there I had to send my Venezuelan passport back to London so the New Zealand consulate could stamp a visa on it, the uncertainty started right then and there (we would have had it all done sooner but we ran into other difficulties, the likes of which I explain below). Will it make it back in time for me to travel to New Zealand? Then the next question hit me, will the Australian Consulate in Spain issue my temporary work visa in time for me to transit through Australia? I had already been denied once, and this was my second time applying, and I had included a lot of documentation, including a 10 page printout of the Globe Trotter project. They took their sweet time analyzing the application and decided to give me the bad news a few days into our stay in Boracay. They even had my itinerary and knew that I would be transiting through Australia on my way to New Zealand, leaving me the smallest window to apply for a transit visa.
So there I was, disappointed and shocked, making moves to now get an Australian transit visa in time for our trip to New Zealand. I started calling in favors from left and right, asking a friend’s wife in Manila (Aika) to help me out with the delivery of the application. Aika came through for me and it seemed we’d have a transit visa in time.
Now might be a good time to explain what’s wrong with having a Venezuelan passport. For starters, Venezuela is going through some of the worst socio-political turmoil in the last decades. People are fed up with their present quality of life. So, for the last month, there has been an uprising which brought protesting to the streets, which was immediately repressed by government forces and violent groups aligned with the present government, which then turned into violence, and unnecessary deaths on both sides of the coin. The government is determined to call the opposition the fascists of our generation, simply because they want more security in a country where violent crimes soar and most go unsolved, including almost 25 thousand homicides each year. They also protest because they want to be able to afford the basic necessities in life, which is simply impossible in a fallen economic state where inflation has risen to an unbelievable high of 56%. That is not all, the basic products are nowhere to be found, shortages are common, and people spend half their days roaming from supermarket to supermarket to find what they need. Add the common electrical blackouts from time to time, the difficulties to travel outside of the country if you can afford it, the difficulties of being able to exchange your currency into dollars when you want and if you want, and the constant government manipulation of media to brainwash the people into thinking that everything is fine, and there you have it: another failed socialist state, which is in fact a corrupt socialist state, in which everyone on the top circles of government have their hands in the revenue from oil exportation and do what they will with it, while sprinkling a minimum amount on those people with the most need, the people in poverty, so that they can keep their populist state going, and they can keep sucking the beautiful Venezuelan land dry.
This situation means that lots of Venezuelans are seeking asylum in countries like Australia. They’re doing this by booking tickets either through Australia or round trip tickets to Australia. As soon as they get there they’ll ditch any other travel plans and just hang out illegally. To be clear, I’m not one of these Venezuelans. I currently live in Spain with my girlfriend where I’m studying film on a legal student visa. I also happen to hold visas in numerous countries like the United States. Now back to the task at hand – getting my transit visa.
On the day of the flight, we arrive in Manila, and I rush into the application centre, asking them if it’s ready. It is not, but they reassure me a little bit by telling me it might be ready in the next batch that comes through in a few hours. I go back to the airport, get in line at the check-in and hope for the best. At that point we argued with the jetstar staff about my transit visa. They called the Australian Consulate and confirmed that my visa had not yet come through leaving me stranded. After growling at the staff about baggage fees, Elliot was forced to go to the gate without me.
The worst then came true. At the last minute, the case officer called Aika asking for some more information for my transit visa. Aika texted me. I called him, and he told me he needed my full itinerary, including my flight back to Spain. Why? I don’t know! It was ridiculous because I had already sent him my itinerary from Manila to Auckland, which was the leg of the trip that mattered. I could swear that these people really have it out for me. I tried to send him the documentation and he told me that he didn’t promise that it could be ready in time. I waited until the gate closed and it wasn’t ready. Bad luck? No, it was bad service. Hundreds of dollars lost because he couldn’t be bothered to make a few clicks in time.
Luckily our friend Lester was keen to let me stay a few extra nights in Manila. I booked another flight through Hong Kong and then finally made it to New Zealand. We immediately decided to try to apply for a visitor visa to Australia. To be clear, I had at this time been denied working visa in Australia twice. The first time I was told I didn’t have enough information. The second time I was told my information wasn’t valid and I should probably not apply for a work visa. This time I tried to game the system explaining that I wanted to attend the BCI Invitational and Australian Nationals on pleasure alone. In reality, we were going to sneak some shooting in the mist of all the pleasure. But what should it matter? Well, it turns out that again it did. I was denied a visa once again, now on the grounds that I was probably going to be working for Skyd Magazine, despite the fact that my second visa application was denied on the grounds that there was no clear association with Skyd Magazine and me.
Because of that, I will probably never be interested in attending any event in Australia ever again. It is a country that no longer holds any appeal to me. I’m sure Australia is a wonderful place with very nice people, but this horrible discrimination at the hands of the Australian visa authority is simply unjust and abhorrent. To think that all I wanted to do from the start was help produce a video promoting sport in Australia and all of the awesome things one can do in Australia.
For those counting at home. Here’s a rundown of some of the bullshit I went through:
Application One –
They rejected me because they thought my bank balance was not big enough, even though Skyd Magazine was paying for the majority of the trip, and because they though I had no clear incentive to go back to Spain, to which I responded with a quick e-mail with an attached picture of my beautiful girlfriend: Incentive enough? Probably not for them.
Application Two –
I showed deeper pockets and more incentive to return, and they had the audacity to refuse me on the basis that there was no clear evidence of a connection between Elliot Trotter, Ultimate GT and myself, without even bothering to call or write before they did so. Just by going on Skyd’s or the Ultimate GT website they would see everything that we have already produced in Boracay and the full reality of the trip. Finally, they said that a temporary work visa was not the best option for me and we decided to opt for a tourist visa.
Application Three –
This was the best try, after four days of deliberation they said that it was clear that I was visiting Australia to work with Skyd Magazine and that I did not qualify for tourism, but then… Didn’t you just say that there was no clear evidence that we worked together? So, now we do? Which is it?
In the end, I know this clear discrimination had nothing to do with the evidence we placed before them. But with my current Venezuelan passport and the crazy idea that I would hatch up this incredible plan in which we travel around the world shooting different ultimate tournaments, just to end in Australia and seek asylum there. Ha! You guys are full of yourselves!
So, again, traveling the world can be a beautiful dream. But, when it comes to traveling with a Venezuelan passport, to an uptight country like Australia, then dreams can quickly become a horrible nightmare.