November 5, 2008

Preferential Passports

My nephew, Boo has an American passport. So does every kid born in the US I guess. Last night we were out for dinner with some of our relatives. Of the 4 of them, 2 had Australian passports one, an American one and one an Indian one. They were describing how there was minimal scrutiny for the 3 'foreign' passports as opposed to the one Indian one. This is not surprising. I must thank my stars for having been pretty fortunate in obtaining whatever visas I've wanted though my 25 years of travelling. However I know of so many people who've not had as much luck, who've had a variety of visas rejected for seemingly no reason at all. First, I find it preposterous that holders of a certain passport require visas for certain countries as opposed to others. Like if you hold an American passport you probably don't need visas for short stays for a hundred countries that I would. The world's immigration rules have got to be the same for people across all countries. Who's to say that the "privileged" ones aren't there to stay for a variety of reasons. (I write this, assuming that most countries fear that they will be immigrated into on a permanent basis by the person entering their country). I could be wrong. There could be a lot more funda behind this than I could possibly know. However, I just don't see how being "born" in a country and thus bestowed that passport exonerates you from possible illegalities/or whatever it is that is of concern. Shouldn't the rules be same for one and all? I am not suggesting that everyone sit and increase the administrative paperwork by ensuring that everyone else gets a visa etc for everything. Like the European union has a pretty cool concept of the Schengen visa which means that with a visa to any one of the countries under the Schengen treaty, you are welcome to enter and leave any other country under the treaty. There has to be some umbrella like this for other countries as well, which makes it easier. But it does irk me that the American junta for instance can override any Schengen requirement and are free to enter anyways. Why preferential treatment? Because these are the so-called "developed nations"? So what if our country is "developing"? In what administrative way does it make us less reliable or less-trustworthy? In fact I suppose their fear is that educated as us lot is from these countries we are likely to "stay" in theirs for the "opportunites" perceived there. I fail to see the whole point, I guess. If there's something that I am entirely missing, someone illuminate me.

Does anyone else have any opinions on this? Let's talk about it.

11 comments:

Ur desi (erstwhile techie) pal! said...

Ahaan, some-one's in a fiery mood! The only reason that Americans do not need a visa while traveling to many a country is that they have a system of monitoring their citizens through an SSN which provides a detailed record of the person and his/her background (including criminal and credit histories). If you observe carefully, the very need of a visa is just to ascertain the above. If only your (our) country and the many other nations whose citizens need a visa to get around, had such a sophisticated mechanism to track its people, I am sure we could walk into any foreign land w/o the need of a visa! But then, we have some way to go before that happens... till then, happy stamping :)

Jaya said...

Dear Desi(estwhile techie) pal -> Thank you for this insight. Yes, I missed this point completely and I thank you for bringing it to my attention. But I feel that it doesn't entirely explain the need. Agreed, India definitely has no system to track its billion people. But once you work/live/study in the US, you are given an SSN too. Not that it matters I suppose. It would be incomprehendable to think they could track the strangers on their land as well, with passports from practically every other country. So I guess u r right in the end. Thanks n keep visiting!

Seshadri said...

shouldn't it be "being "born" in a country"? And... its something very similar to who we'd invite home for lunch.. would you question someone if they invited only their closest friends?

Universal brotherhood has a long way to go...

Jaya said...

Seshadri -> Forgive the grammatical errors. I was very charged writing that post and just kept writing withour re-reading. However, I find your analogy inappropriate. An invitation to closest friends would be akin to having "close ties" countrywise. That's not necessarily true. Everyone might want to keep the developed nations happy but that gives no reason for them to allow every Tom, Dick n Harry without any major checks. Every nation has it's crooks. However the SSN and tab thing that the other person said makes sense and i'd still likely accept that as an explanation than something a tad frivolous as "good ties", so to speak.

Seshadri said...

:) didn't expect anything less... nonetheless, human nature is to discriminate. We either discriminate for good reasons or discriminate without base. My point wasn't about good ties but about all of us being judgemental...

if you were to hitch a ride, would you flag down a truck?

Jaya said...

Sesh-> I do see your point then. Yes, everyone discriminates. And it's going to be a long way before universal acceptance, as you pointed out. And well, a truck, mostly as a last option :)

Ram said...

at the end of the day, it is what the country itself feels is right for it. there are a number of factors govts consider before issuing a visa waiver. for instance, there is less likelihood for a US citizen to enter the EU and stay there for the rest of his life. whereas the probability of such an event, like it or not, is higher for someone whose country is in a lesser standing than the EU. There is a reciprocity at times, for instance, EU citizens do not need a visa to travel to US for short stays either. Other considerations are business or tourism promotions. A country that is desperate for revenue from tourism or wants to feed its businesses are eager to welcome people from everywhere. Security is of course at the top of each agenda. While the SSN concept above is true, it is only a safe guard and if there is any wrongdoing overseas, it could take ages with bureaucracy. That's why countries have to rely on probabilities and history of citizens of visiting countries' likelihood of wrongdoing, etc.

I guess you are mainly viewing this from a tourist perspective, but for a country, there are way more considerations than listed above and how do you know who is a real tourist? That's why all the fuss with itinerary, hotel reservation, limosa registrations, sponsor letter and so on.

Jaya said...

Ram -> yes, I was viewing it on a touristic basis. But that's what I am saying... ultimately reciprocated, there is still the underlying "developed" nation undercurrent... Considering that an EU person of a country of lower-standing, like you said could just as easily make an entry into one of the other mentioned countries simply because of the shared pact between them. Which is why there should be a continental pact of sorts I think. As an Asian, you can enter Asia, blah... and so on. Sounds futuristic.. but who knows!

Sachin said...

Jaya - Well, as far as I know, The SSN system is not at all a fool-proof system. My sister has told me about sooo many makkus getting a fake SSN and staying in the US and even getting GCs on that basis. Infact, immigration from south is their biggest concern.

Sesh-> Well, I don't think its as simple as personal discrimination. There can be political issues behind such a thing.Coz I don't see my country as a truck in International standards. Trucks are made to carry goods. My country is no less than a Maruti Zen, a very fuel efficient car, though not a sedan.

My view-> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Visa_(document) This link can put more light on the issue. Like, after all the recent happenings in Indian cities, I am sure India will want to restrict people from one country entering in. Then again, that country does have good, educated people too. But, its not worth the risk. So, basically, the two concerned countries should reach an agreement in such an issue. And I hope India gets into more such agreements.

Jaya said...

Sachin-> Indian law required visas from most entrants, even USA and EU to get in. I find that normal because they demand it of everyone. the whole reason I wrote the post is that for short stays, the EU and US people don't need visas to a variety of other countries, provided their visit is touristic. Thanks for the comment and link.

Seshadri said...

Hi Sachin... been a long time! Yeah, I know that we are a very good lot. The analogy is not about US-India relations, but about our ingrained flaws (if you can call it that..). Life has evolved thus, and it is a very effective survival mechanism-- being judgemental.

I was only being more succint than Ram (riding the risk of offering frivolous opinions.. :), pulling Jaya's leg), but second his opinion about numerous contributary factors to the present state of things..

Had there been just one reason, each country would have worked its way around it. Each country would have issued directives to each other about how to work their ways around it. But, no! It's preferred that things remain the way they are. Unless ofcourse someone who is being watch, perseveres to remove himself from that list. The onus is on us!

And Jaya, India does that because, there's no one to model the risks or do racial profiling. Euphemism -Universal Acceptance, Secular!

whats around the corner?

Post a Comment