The immigration officials are like the gatekeepers to all their country has to offer. In the case of Albania it would seem an extravagance to put any restriction on anyone coming in but for the rich countries of the world, immigration is what keeps all the starving masses out.
Immigration officials are generally on the look out for people who might either cause problems in the country or those who intend to work without the appropriate paperwork. They are straightest of the straight and it’s worth working how to play along with them.
First of all, wear clean clothes, tie your hair back and if you’re a guy, shave. Paranoid immigration officials don’t want to see itinerant hippies arriving in their country – they’re told to welcome only those who have money to spend. So look smart and do all you can to seem respectable – yes, that means taking out those piercings for a couple of hours…
Second, have a good story up your sleeve as to why you’re traveling to that particular country. It may even be the truth but either way it should sound quite reasonable. Answers like Oh, you know, man, I figured I’d just let the spirits take me where they will, maybe stay here a few days, maybe a few years, it’s all so beautifully open… will not help you in the least.
Immigration officials are the worst in the world of bureaucrats and want to hear that you have a steady address back home, a steady job and that you know exactly where you’re going to stay that night, should they decide to let you in.
To this extent, if you’re facing a tough immigration and don’t have any friends in the country to vouch for you, then it’s worth reserving a room in a nice hotel – it doesn’t cost you anything to do so but it looks like you’re a respectable tourist. It’s good to have money to show immigration to prove you’re not a penniless jet-bum but a credit card will often do.
If you are planning to work illegally, don’t carry any evidence like a resume, job contacts or professional equipment that might give the game away. They’ll only search your bags if they’re suspicious but the best thing to do is keep all your contacts somewhere in your email box and print them out on the other side.
Some people believe it’s best to travel with a suitcase rather than a rucksack if you’re facing a tough border. In practice, it’s usually enough if you and your luggage look smart.
Visas and Entry Stamps
For some countries you have to get visas in advance, in which case the above immigration scenario begins at the embassy in question and the same protocol should be followed. For other countries, they’ll give you a stamp of entry at the airport giving you anywhere from a week to 3 months of legal stay.
When they ask you how long you plan to stay give them a definite answer – vague replies set off alarm bells in their bureaucratic minds. If you don’t know how long you’re planning to stay maybe you’ll try and stay forever!
Also, if you know that they generally give travelers 3 months of stay, don’t ask for the maximum, it’s suspicious. Say you plan to stay 6 weeks and they’ll give you 3 months automatically.
Often rules regarding visas can be broken quite freely and not much will happen to you if you overstay. In some countries though they make you pay a fine and may put a big red stamp in your passport saying you may never return. We suspect that all you need to do in that case is put your passport in the washing machine and go to your embassy for a new one.
Check out the local rules in detail but don’t let the bureaucrats decide how long you’re going to stay somewhere. It’s a free planet, man.
Oh, one last tip – immigration and embassies are suckers for bits of paper – that’s the world in which they live – we know of travelers who have got visas that were impossible to get, just by producing a letter from a ‘publisher’, declaring that they were writing a book about the destination to promote tourism.
With Photoshop and Microsoft Word the enterprising traveler can think up a hundred good cover stories and have the papers to back him up.