Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Drama x 3: Passport, Airline and Visa!

 
Last Friday was traumatic and stressful, to state the very least. I was in the office and had my Singapore Passport with me (yes, still not Aussie Citizen 'cause Singapore Govt disallows Dual Citizenship and I am an only child).
 
I had my passport with me because my entry visa to Australia (which lasts 5 years) expired in July and the renewal process is very straight forward, can be done on the spot in the Immigration Office (in Brisbane City where I work) or 24 hours via online.
 
Anyway, the drama unfolded when I realised that my Singapore Passport expires in April 2013! Yes, less than 6 months and I am traveling overseas in less than a fortnight! Holy Mackeral!
 
Immediately, I saw my "future" flash before me - my very disappointed parents that we aren't spending Christmas together, the restaurant and hotel bookings, my anguish & embarrassement for the oversight and not being able to spend Christmas with my parents, what would Jared say, etc.
 
Anyway, to cut a potentially very long story short. This is what I did and am sharing this in the event someone out there has and may encounter this problem.
 
Contact the Singapore High Commission based in Canberra:
Emergency Travel Document (ETD)
 
It is an automated phone system. Just press "0" and you will be taken to the operator without having to hear about their address and office hours over-and-over again.
 
Request for an Emergency Travel Document and send in all the paperwork they ask of you which includes: Photocopy of current passport, recent photo, flight itinerary, money order of A$13 made out to the Singapore High Commission, paid return self addressed "platinum" envelope that is trackable, insured, guaranteed next day delivery and requires signature.
 
To obtain new Singapore Passport in Australia will take up to 8 weeks and I don't have 8 weeks! Hence, the ETD is my best option. I applied for a new Singapore Passport online over the weekend and it will be ready for Singapore pick up in two weeks time!
 
I sent everything off last Friday before 12 noon, rang Elaine (the officer) today - Tuesday and she informs me that she had sent it out yesterday which means, it will arrive today! HOORAY! Thanks Elaine! Love your work!
 
Contact the Airline you are flying with
 
I rang the Emirates office here in Brisbane and related my story. The operator was very helpful, went through the terms & conditions on her screen and confirmed that ETD will be accepted by the airline. *phew* Yes, she typed a special note next to my name so that when I check in, that's what the counter staff will be asking of me.
 
Contact the Department of Immigration & Citizenship
 
They confirmed also that ETD will be accepted at immigration and  I have to apply for new Entry Visa (if not I cannot enter Australia even though I am a PR, own my own home outright, been paying taxes for the last 11 years, husband and children are citizens, etc).
 
 Instead of going into their office, I was urged to apply online because they no longer issue a stick on label and everything is done bio-metrically. What REALLY THREW ME OFF the chair was the cost....it used to cost me A$70, it now costs A$300!
 
Anyway, I applied and paid for it yesterday and received my biometric visa 8 hours later. Yes, came with letter that was sent via EMAIL.
 
WHAT NEXT?
 
  1. Pick up my new passport in Singapore
  2.  
  3. Bring my old passport (that has my new biometric visa) and new passport to Australia High Commission so that they can 'transfer' visa from old to new passport
 
LESSON LEARNT
  • To always check passport and visa prior to making any plans or bookings overseas
  •  
  • To seriously consider being an Australian Citizen (at least the passport is valid for 10 years or should I say 9.25 years when you consider it needs to be at least valid for 6 months when you leave the country and when you return to country)
I want to go now. Not in 12 days. I mean NOW.
I need to hop on that plane with my family.
I need to be with my mummy and daddy.


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