I hope you enjoy reading about my previous misfortunes when it comes to dealing with visa’s. I really ought to have learnt my lesson by now!
I have a real problem with visa’s. Call me lackadaisical, call me forgetful, call me whatever you want, but the fact of the matter is, I consistently fail to stay on top of my visa’s stipulations. I messed up in Vietnam and it cost me over $200 and now I’ve messed up again in Taiwan and the damage this time lies at roughly the same total.
In Vietnam I had speedily pounced on a cheap flight to Hong Kong, failing to recognise that my savvy saving had resulted in me electing to leave the country two days after my visa had expired. I don’t know if any of you reading this has ever experienced the realisation that your visa has expired, but seriously.. it’s a heart stopping moment and it feels like all your insides have just plummeted to your arsehole.
The story in Vietnam ended with my friend and I being forced to stand at the immigration office, whilst a very difficult individual went through the process of ultimately fining us, in the slowest possible manner. We almost missed our flights and our initial penalty was a fixed fine of $400 combined, for overstaying by 48hrs. This fine was reduced to $200 after identifying the fact we were students. Thank God – I suppose? But yes, a note for you all – Vietnamese immigration at all the major airports are notoriously corrupt, and they’ll judge your level of fine on a case by case basis. The $200 fine which we eventually got for ‘being students’, was in fact the maximum possible fine we should have faced according to Governmental regulations. The immigration officers have you completely over a barrel though, because you can’t argue with them. If you argue they’ll make sure you miss your flight.
You’d think I would have learnt my lesson after this catastrophic incident in Hanoi. Well guess again, because here I am, sat in my apartment in Taiwan, staring at my passport which has a visa in that has been expired for the past 27 days. For some strange reason, I felt sure that I had legal access to Taiwan for six months – which is true if I had entered the country with a visitors visa. It turns out that I have a slightly different form of visitors visa, which could be extended at any local police station or immigration office, with the addition of a free stamp. I apparently required this visa in order to be allowed to study temporarily in Taiwan. I then neglected to get the stamp that I needed, still believing that I had six months to kill, but no, once again, I’ve fucked up.
I was then faced with a choice of either leaving the country RIGHT NOW, and paying a fine of £80, and then re-entering Taiwan where my visa would be re-started, granting me another 90 days stay. Or, I can stay in Taiwan, pretend like I didn’t notice, and then leave on my scheduled flights (Jan 21st), by which time my overstay will be beyond the one month mark, pay a fine of £120, get a shiny red stamp in my passport telling me not to come back to Taiwan for twelve months without pre-arranged permission, and be done with the whole debacle. Rather sneakily, I’ve opted for the latter.
I know I’m an idiot. I’m now promising myself that for both Australia and New Zealand I will have my visa shit sorted out and clear in my head from the get go. Don’t mess around with border control kids.