Customs & Passport check – Music was my way out of the problems!
This year, I embarked on a number of tours. I went sightseeing in Singapore for approximately eight days, roamed around Australia for a fortnight in 3 different cities, and finally an 18-day trip to New Zealand. Since I have an Indonesian passport, I don’t need to get a visa to go to Singapore. Hence, I could get inside the country with ease. But since it’s harder to enter first world countries, there are actually quite interesting stories in facing the customs while I travelled to both Australia and New Zealand.
For example, the rule says that I need to have at least $400 in my bank account if I were to travel to New Zealand. It took approximately two weeks to obtain my tourist visa and over a couple of hours to get my belongings checked by the security guard by the time I got down from the plane. I was asked a few questions, like who I was travelling with, or how much money I had in my pocket. These are really important questions to ask someone who enters the country with a foreign passport, because a lot of illegal immigrants enter by using a tourist visa to work and make a living in the country instead of just travelling there. If you don’t seem to be genuine or do not meet any of the requirements, they have the right to reject your entrance in the border.
I was only seventeen at the time. My objective was to travel with my then-boyfriend who arrived there a few days earlier than I did. He is Swedish, so he didn’t have the same problem as I did. Apparently he was the one who organised the trip, so I told them I brought at least $400 in my debit card and everything else (including the accommodation, transport, etc) would be paid by him. As instructed by the immigration officer from the embassy, I provided the receipts of the hotel payments and parental consent signature. I did everything as I was told before I arrived, but I still wasn’t allowed to get out of the airport before answering more of their questions.
Hence, they decided to call out my boyfriend from the waiting room and both of us were interrogated. Instead of asking technical questions (like the trip budget, address of where I’ll be staying, etc.) They asked us how we met and why we became lovers. I told them it wasn’t their business, because the questions were irrelevant to discerning whether or not I was potentially harmful to enter the country. However, they insisted until we decided to open up that we were dating for almost 2 years and we met on a music website called MySpace where we shared our Music together.
They stopped complaining and finally let us out that easily! Finally, after over 2 hours of rigorous evaluation, including taking everything out of all my bags, asking how much money I had! The only way for them to be convinced is after I told them my personal details, including how I met my boyfriend and why we believed that New Zealand was a romantic place for us to tour around and play our songs.
Then, a weirder situation happened while I was going to Australia. I actually have lived there for 2 years as a high school student and my visa has yet to expire until March 2013. I came back there again to visit a few old friends after finishing my education. There’s a rule against bringing wooden products, and I happened to bring my Ukulele there. When I was about to declare my goods, this was how the conversation occurred between me and the officer:
Officer: So you came here with a student visa?
Me: Yes, I was a student at Hawker College in Canberra.
Officer: What major did you take?
Me: I was in high school but I studied Music and Drama.
Officer: Is that a Ukulele that you mentioned was one of the declared items?
Me: Yes. Would it be ok to bring it to the country?
Officer: Prove it to me that you’re a real music student. Play all of us a song, and I’ll let you go.
So I played a “Happy Birthday” song in my Ukulele, accompanied with my own singing voice. Apparently everyone else in the airport clapped their hands as I was finally allowed to get out.
Now I realize, it’s not about whether or not you’re an illegal immigrant or that your goods may or may not be allowed to be brought in the country. What’s important is to be genuine with yourself and to show them that you know what you’re doing with your belongings, and that there’s a good reason for you to travel in the first place. So the only key is to not only follow the requirements, but also tell the truth of who you are! You better be safe than sorry!Featured photo source: DepositPhotos.com