There we were at Immigration and Customs, with forms in hand, passports at the ready, and supplemental paperwork in our files. We waited in line with “Other Passports,” watching the New Zealand and Australia passport holder queues speeding through. Eventually it was our turn, and we handed over the forms and passports.
Then we were asked for our itineraries for travel onward. Which, as rolling luggagers, we don’t have. We explained that we didn’t have flights out planned, that we were just traveling through, but that we did have proof of income and funds. And that, from reading their website, we thought that was all that was required.
Our Customs agent handed us over to an Immigration Officer, and we followed him off to the side. He explained that we should either have an outbound flight, or have already obtained the three month visa – that the airline should never have let us on the plane without confirming that we had outbound flights as well, and that they would be fined. (Sorry Qantas!!!!) We read the entry requirements online, and it definitely sounded as if proof of support was all we needed! No one asked us about outbound flights prior to boarding any of the flights, and in fact American Airlines booked our one way flights, and Qantas changed our seats around – all of that done on the phone – and no mention was ever made of needing flights out before we could land.
Mr. Immigration took our boarding passes from the flight to New Zealand, our entire trip itineraries in, as well as our passports. He reviewed our bank statements proving funds, and took everything back to an office to make photocopies.
We waited. And we waited. We probably waited for 20 or 30 minutes, while Mr. Immigration made photocopies and who knows what else. Richard suggested that maybe he was watching us from a camera, to see if we looked nervous. I thought maybe he was researching us online, or looking us up in some kind of worldwide database. Richard then said maybe we’d spend a night in jail and then be deported. We had no clue. It was tense, but we watched another planeload of people come through, and chatted with another agent – I think he may have been Maori, he kind of looked like it, and he had a wonderful black and red tattoo on his arm in those intricate curling designs.
Eventually Mr. Immigration Official came back, and apologized for making us wait. We made demurring noises – it’s okay, we understand, have to check, blah blah blah. He said they’d go ahead and give us the three month visa as if we’d applied ahead of time, that he could see we had funds to support ourselves, and to go ahead and get stamped in by the man we had spoken with earlier.
So we made it into the country, without being arrested or deported or spending a night in jail. And we were never asked about our medications (we have more than three months worth), or anything else.
Sometimes being middle-aged and looking innocuous is helpful!