Ok, so my title is a little misleading, but I thought I would share my latest travel adventure in case it might help someone. It seems like every month, at least, I get an email from a couple who were supposed to get married only to be told on their wedding day that the registrant is suddenly denied entry on arrival. My heart breaks for each of you.
Many of you have read my story, “Darrinos True Story” here at FightAWA.org. (By the way… time for a cheap “plug”… follow FightAWA.org on Twitter!) Even after all of the difficulties that I’ve experienced, not unlike many others, I still consider myself lucky in some ways. I’ve been able to travel to see my fiance 6 times, with 5 times being successful. I’ve had to learn how to adjust and roll with the punches. It is the life I have now, and luckily I have the love of a wonderful woman to soften the gut punches that come with it.
Two weeks ago I was preparing to go see my love once again, this time in Bali, Indonesia. I did everything that I was supposed to do and notified the authorities of my intent to travel. (21 days in advance.) On my third trip to Jakarta, Indonesia, I was denied entry for “immigration reason” and was sent all the way back to the US. That truly sucked. But I’d read that if I would book a trip to a different, intermediate country as a destination, and then book a separate flight to my “true” desired destination that if I were to be denied I would only be sent back to the country I came from, not all the way back to the US.
So this time I booked a flight from my home to Hong Kong, and then a separate flight from Hong Kong to Bali. Hong Kong has always been cooperative in the past, so that’s why I chose that city. (More on that later.) I flew the 15hrs to Hong Kong, and went to get my boarding pass on Hong Kong Airlines to Densapar (Bali). But I was somewhat surprised when I ran into a situation there. The very kind and respectful girl at HK Air informed me that she had to contact Indonesian Immigration for permission to issue me a boarding pass! This was unusual because usually a person has to actually go to the country to be denied, but here I was facing a denial before even getting to Indonesia. Things got real and nerves became active!
I remained calm. Eventually, after a little discussion and a little more time, HK Air was told that I was not allowed to enter Indonesia and that they could not issue a boarding pass. (Thank you IML. : /) For more on this, visit www.registranttag.org ) On the one hand, I was upset because I really wanted to visit Bali and spend the week with my fiance. On the other hand, being denied in Hong Kong saved me a total of 10hrs of travel time.
At that point, I had a choice to make. Either go home, or try to stay in Hong Kong once again. (I have been there twice before.) I decided to give it a try. As expected, when facing the immigration officer I was given a paper that said “restricted” and led away to an office for further questioning. I say “expected” because this is the same thing that happened last time, just a few months ago. But unlike the situation may have been here in the US, Hong Kong immigration is very polite and respectful. I waited for about 10 mins, then they asked me several questions that never really seem to be important enough, but… whatever. “Why are you here?” “How long will you be here?” “Where are you coming from?” “What do you do for work?” “How long have you been there?” Yada, yada, yada…
After a short wait, the “interrogator” went to her supervisor, then came out and handed all of my paperwork to another employee. I was then told to follow them, and they led me back out to the immigration booth, said “Enjoy your stay” and the officer stamped my passport. I promptly called my fiance and said “Change of plans! Book a flight to Hong Kong!” She arrived the next morning and we were able to spend the week (and Typhoon Hato) together.
With all of that being said, I want to tell you a few things. I made sure that I called the local authorities and told them of the change in itinerary. This is very important. I did this as soon as I could, with an informational email just for good measure. Make sure you keep in touch and let authorities know where you are. Secondly, Hong Kong has historically been very cooperative and relatively easy to enter. For those of you wondering “where on Earth” you can go, especially those of you with loved ones in Asia, Hong Kong has been an answer to prayer for us. But PLEASE, keep this in mind: IF you go, please do all of the rest of us a favor and DO NOT break laws. DO NOT do anything that would cause Hong Kong authorities to question their current policy. If you cannot control yourself, please stay home. If we are to ever change public perception and government policies, we must give them reason to change it. Hong Kong has been a great place. Don’t ruin it!
I hope I didn’t offend anyone with that, but only wanted to let you know that there is a place you can go. There are others, too, though laws change and I cannot guarantee that this will always be the case. For a helpful list, visit www.registranttag.org and look at the Travel Matrix. Registranttag (Registrant Travel Action Group) is a “sister website” that addresses the International Megan’s Law, while we at FightAWA.org address the Adam Walsh Act. The travel matrix will show you, with an admittedly limited amount of input, what countries will allow entry, which will not, etc. Keep in mind… that information is not “official”, but merely passed on by registrants who have traveled either successfully or unsuccessfully.
I hope this helps some of you. Keep the Faith, and be strong. Fight on!