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On Being “Married”…

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I have said this before and I’ll say it again: Had I a different passport, by now, I would have probably traveled to twice as many countries as I already have. The Henley & Partners’ Visa Restrictions Index ranks countries from 1 to 104, based on the number of countries their passport allows visa-free travel to. With visa-free travel to only 37 other countries, the Nepali passport ranks 98. Only six other passports are worse!

The restriction is there because Nepal is one of the poorest countries in the world and, as such, other countries consider Nepalese a potential illegal immigrant. Of course, there are ample cases of Nepalese — just as many other nationalities from poor countries — finding passage to developed countries through very shady means, and remaining behind as just that: illegal immigrant, or illegal alien, as they are referred to in the United States!

Regardless, in the Fall of 1996, a diplomatic mission refused to issue a tourist visa to me on the grounds that I hadn’t spent enough time in the country of residence (Norway)! That, even after having spent — by that time — three-and-a-half years in the US, three years in Italy, a year in Hong Kong, half a year in the United Kingdom, and having traveled in over a dozen different developed countries!

Any guesses about the country that embassy might have belonged to?

But there was one time when the difficulties with getting passage to a region for tourism had nothing to do with my passport being from Nepal!

Summer of 2007 in Kathmandu, my girlfriend and I were making preparations for our travel to Tibet. We had to buy a packaged tour through an officially recognized operator in the city. The tour operator also arranged for the visa we both needed.

To make a long story short…when the Chinese authorities in Kathmandu reviewed my application, they had made an issue over my Tibetan name. But, to make sure that they issued the visa, the agent had the brilliant idea of making up the story that my girlfriend and I were actually a couple…a married couple!

All my life I have had difficulties entering other countries because I am NOT from that country.

And this time, I could have potentially been not allowed passage to Tibet because I might be from there!

I am waiting for the day when a diplomatic mission refuses to issue a tourist visa because I have traveled around the world too much and for too long! 😀

Incidentally, I did get the visa and we did end up having a great time traveling in Tibet that summer.

 

 

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