I wish people wouldn’t take offense when I say bad things about my South African passport. You should believe me when I say that this feeling of bitterness toward my little green book has nothing to do with how I feel about the actual country. I love my country- but its passport sucks.
I also wish that people wouldn’t disagree with me when I say that a South African passport is quite frankly, mind blowingly frustrating when it comes to travelling the World. There are not many places that make it easy for us to enter. This is not an opinion but a fact. So please, don’t mess with me on this one.
Also, don’t come with your positive outlook and say ‘yes, but there are so many place that you can easily go’. That’s so besides the point its not even funny. Places I can go and places I want to go are two different things. (Although I have been ‘forced’ to choose alternative destinations before and with fantastic outcomes).
Anyone who has attempted to leave the country on an overseas vacation knows the blood, sweat and tears that go into obtaining a visa for various destinations. England, Australia, the USA, Canada and The EU (the list goes on and on) are all places we cannot simply book a flight and go to. If you have indeed experienced these visa processes first hand (endless paperwork, hours in consulates, breakdowns when you don’t have all necessary documentation) then imagine what its like for South Africans who work/travel across the globe. I am one of those people and am constantly met by barriers preventing me from experiencing these ‘live abroad’ programs that are available to other nationalities.
Some recent internet research carried out by yours truly shows that Aussies, Kiwis and Canadians have the most options for countries to work/holiday in. Working/holiday schemes are usually reciprocal agreements between two countries because: “these countries want to encourage travel and the exchange of culture between their citizens.” At this point I’m thinking but hey- South Africa has so much to share with the rest of the world, especially in the cultural department.
Google ‘working/holiday visas for South Africans‘ and depressingly little comes up. Oh wait, here’s something!
I just realised why the whole of South Africa is in the yachting industry. We have almost nowhere else to go if we want to work outside the country (and are not a doctor, engineer or anyone packing actual skills). So we work on the oceans and seas. (or South Korea)
Of course we do have options to work abroad. But at a price. As a South African passport holder you are only able to obtain working holiday visas through agencies (and for very limited countries). Agencies like Chilli Adventures, OVC and Awesome Travel are some of the few South African based companies that ‘help you live out your dreams’.
The catch? Only about a R15 000+ fee payable to these middle-men. All countries have these companies available to assist people with their work travelling plans. But for them this is an option. Should they feel competent enough to organise themselves the visa then they could. We cannot. If you want a work/travel visa, you will pay someone a shit load of money to help you do so. Oh and you’re not allowed to find your own job either, the agency does that too. Not music to the independent traveler’s ears.
My big question is WHY? And I’m sure there is a valid reason, or reasons. If anyone knows any of them, please feel free to comment below. An attempt at finding out online has just left me with a map of the countries we can visit without visas and let me tell you, its nowhere near 166 countries the Danish, Americans and Brits can visit on a whim.
An economist friend of mine helped me understand a bit more the other day. And what he said didn’t even surprise me after experiencing what I’ve experienced there.
“It’s thanks to our home affairs who “lost” 100,000 blank passports a few years ago and they’ve ended up in the hands of baddies. When they expire we might be back in the game”.
No wonder we’re on the list of countries that aren’t welcome. There’s a massive chance you’re not who you say you are. I wonder if there’s not perhaps another person travelling around on my father’s passport after he received a text to come and pick his new one up and when he arrived it just didn’t exist. Nice one South African Home Affairs.
But I digress. My aim was not to go on a rant about South African Home Affairs, or complain (too much) about my passport (because there are worse ones out there). This post was to share with you the frustration I so often feel. I have chosen a life that forces me to rely on my passport and while I feel a sense of pride when I see the stamp collection grow and the pages fill up, I also feel angry and exasperated when I don’t see the countries that I long for.