Tag Archives: travel documents

Travelling is hard

17 Feb

So, as I told you before (well, I think I did, I do have baby brain, so I can’t really be sure), Hannah and I are going to the U.S. so she can meet my family for the first time.  I know, you’re thinking ‘but you’re pregnant, shouldn’t you wait until after you have the other baby so they can both meet your parents?’  Yeah, that seems like a good idea, BUT, then we’d have to pay 2 adult fares (because there is NO WAY I could handle 2 kids on a long flight and through airports all by myself), and a 75% child fare because Hannah will be 2 by then.  This way, we can get over there before the magical no-one-will-sell-you-travel-insurance 26 week mark, and it will be my parents turn to visit us next, so we’ll have many years to save up the enormous amount of cash it costs to fly a family of four overseas.  Hang on, it’s my parents turn to visit this time.  Hmmm….

Before we can travel, there were a few things we needed to take care of.   First off, I’m allowed to stay in the country, but I wasn’t really allowed to return if I left.  My visa expired….  Sigh, that means a trip to immigration, and a rather steep fee to get a Resident Return Visa.  Humph, I guess I should have just gotten my citizenship ages ago when I first took the test.  Oh well, live and learn.  Maybe I shouldn’t be so cheap.

I also had to get Hannah’s birth certificate so I could get her a passport.  Yeah yeah, I should have ordered a birth certificate when I registered her birth (as most people do), but that cost money, and I didn’t need it at the time, and I couldn’t be bothered filling out all the paper work.

Lucky for me, both the Births, Deaths, and Marriages, and the Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs (DIMIA) offices are in Parramatta.  I decided to get up early, and get to the BDM at opening time, 8am, then walk to DIMIA.  I was going to bring Hannah, but it was supposed to be ridiculously hot that day, so I left her at home with Grandma.

Getting the birth certificate was easy, I had it in hand by 8:10.  I walked to DIMIA, only to find that it had moved.  3 years ago.  Sigh.  Found the new office and discovered it didn’t open until 9.  Humph, I thought it opened at 8:30.  There were already 4 guys sitting in the only chairs available, waiting for 9am when we were allowed to go up the lift up to Immigration.  A security guard sat at a portable desk next to the elevators reading a magazine.  I assumed he was there to keep us foreigners out of the lifts before 9am, ensuring all the people who actually worked in the building could get up to their floors.  Not that he did a very good job.

A pair of immigrants came in and went in the lift.  I knew at a glance that they didn’t work there, but did the security guard say anything?  Nope, he was busy, reading his magazine.  They went up the lift and came back down a few minutes later, to loiter around with the growing number of the rest of us.

By quarter to 9, the lobby was pretty full of us immigrants.  I felt rather out of place being the only caucasian person, as well as the only person under 40ish in the entire room.  At 8:55, everyone suddenly made a mad rush for the elevators.  Not that we could go up yet.  There was nothing said.  It was just like BANG, and everyone rushed in.  I, of course, ended up near the back of the orderly-ish line, since I had been sitting near the chairs, not obstructing the path of the office workers getting to the elevators in any way.  A whole bunch of people were standing at the sides of the line.  The men who were there before me were also at the back of the line.  Seriously, what are these people thinking?  Why do they think they have the right to go first when some of us have been waiting for half an hour?

The security guard didn’t say a word.  His magazine was obviously very enthralling.

9am – the doors to the lift opened.  It was like there was a million dollars in the elevator and only one person, the first person in there, could have it.  Or maybe like a mosh pit when the band comes on stage.  Everyone surged forward.  The people at the sides of the line rushed in front.  Still, the security guard said nothing.  Instead, he started packing up, completely ignoring the chaos that was right in front of him.  All the foreigners were allowed upstairs now, there was no need for him, he could be on his merry way. What the heck did they employ him for?  He did nothing!  I wanted to yell at him.  I wanted to yell at all the rude people cutting in the line, pushing and shoving, desperate to be first to get up to immigration, to get in line there to take a number and do more waiting.

“Seriously people, I have been here for HALF AN HOUR!  And those guys over there?  Yeah, those ones.  They were here before me!  What makes you think you can waltz in here 5 minutes before opening time and shove your way in?”  Of course I didn’t say that because a) I’m a wuss bag b) I’m pregnant and didn’t want to be punched in the stomach, and c) they probably didn’t speak english anyway.  I HATE it when people cut in line!  It’s so rude!  Like when you’re at the bus stop and then the bus comes and a person who just got there jumps on the bus as soon as the doors open.  They of course get the last seat and you have to stand.  RUDE!  Lines people, it’s called a line for a reason. WAIT YOUR TURN!

Anyway, the immigration people were super nice to me and didn’t even look at my application form, opting instead to look at my passport, take my money and put in the new visa.  I was out of there before anyone else.  Haha suckers!

Then I had to fill out Hannah’s passport application form.  That was going well until I accidentally wrote my name instead of hers after filling it half way out.  Humph.  I traipsed all the way to the post office to get another one.  That one was going extremely well (haha, name box, you won’t get me again!) until the very end, when I witnessed Aaron’s signature and he witnessed mine.  Then I read that the witness has to be someone not related to the applicant, and not living in the same house hold.  Snap.  Guess I should read things before signing them.  I went all the way to the post office again to get a new form.

Third time lucky.  Finally, I got it right.  I went to get Hannah’s photo taken.  It looked pretty shocking, but whatever.  I went to pay. I rummaged through my purse.  Sigh, I forgot my wallet.  I told him I’d pick up the photos the next day and pay for them.  When I got home, I had a look at the photo guidelines.  Mouth must be shut, eyebrows must be showing.  Humph, her mouth was open, and her fringe was over her eyebrows.

The next day I went back.  I told them my concerns about the photos and the lady looked pretty annoyed.  Not at me, at the person who took them.  “You told him it was for a passport?”  “Yeah, I said ‘Hi, I need a passport photo for my daughter.'”  New lady was really nice and took better, acceptable photos of Hannah.  She had me put a little piece of food in her mouth so it would remain closed while she took her photo.

Phew, sent off the application.  I got it back today.  Yay!

I booked the e-tickets online.  When they hit my inbox, I nearly died.  Ok, not really, that’s an exaggeration, but you know.  The ticket said we get 3 pieces of luggage Sydney to L.A., but then none from L.A. to Seattle and Seattle to L.A.  What, was I supposed to haul everything all that way and then ditch it at the airport?  Sure, I used to work as a travel agent and know all about interline carriers and whatnot, but V Australia wasn’t around when I was a travel agent, and I remember clients coming in and telling me that they had to pay extra for bags in the U.S.  I’m pretty sure that those were separate flights, not all one ticket like mine, but I can’t remember, that was so long ago, and I have baby brain!

Many calls to V Australia later (they don’t seem to believe in holding until someone is available), and they told me it was a mistake, lucky I called otherwise Alaskan airlines might not have accepted our bags, and that they’d send me a new, correct ticket.  Awesome.  Still annoying though.

When I got Hannah’s passport, I had to apply for the visa waiver program for her.  Yeah, yeah, she could be a US citizen, but you know what?  That would mean I’d have to buy another passport, register her birth with the U.S. government, and get more photos taken (because the U.S. and Australia don’t use the same size photos for passports.  Annoying.).  Too much effort, too much money, no thank you.  She can do it later if she needs it for something.  The option is always going to be there.  Unless the U.S. suddenly hates Australia or something, but I don’t see that happening any time soon.

We now have all of our documents taken care of (well, I do need to actually print some things out, but I’ll do that later), and we will be on our way in less than a month.  Watch out Washington (state, not D.C., they are, in fact, different places, contrary to popular Australian belief), we’re coming for you!

%d bloggers like this: