Expat Life

Of hobbits and immigration officers

The trip from Miami to Melbourne was the longest journey ever. I travelled from Miami to Los Angeles to Auckland to Melbourne.

The journey from Miami to Los Angeles on American Airlines Economy was as comfortable as could be. It’s depressing to say that because it’s actually not a comfortable flight, but my expectations of domestic flights have sunk deeper than the Titanic.

Once upon a time, when flying across the country, you got a pillow, blanket, headset, and complimentary drinks and snacks. If the plane was modern, every seat had its own TV and you could enjoy a few movies, television shows, music, and maybe even games. Those days are over. The only thing you get now is complementary water (a cup, not a bottle) and you can opt to buy an overpriced Handi-Snack. The plane I was on from Miami to L.A. didn’t have individual TVs, just a program for the entire cabin. The movie was Guilt Trip. I read instead.

It was a beautiful day in Los Angeles, which was fortunate because I had to take a long stroll outside from one terminal to another. On arrival, I paid too much for a cheeseburger and a lemonade and spent the rest of my layover reading.

The flight to Auckland was on Air New Zealand, which I’d never flown on before. I’ve always flown on Qantas. It was a pleasant flight, the crew was very friendly and helpful, and the food was pretty good. However, there were no signs of hobbits, elves, dwarves, or Richard Simmons. I felt swindled.

I had a layover in Auckland and then it was on to Melbourne. I start to get a little desperate at this point because the finish line was so close, but usually there’s another hour or two to go to get through passport control and customs. To my pleasant surprise, there was no line in passport control. I got through in just a couple of minutes, but there was an immigration agent waiting for me.

The five-minute conversation was so aggressive and unexpected that it felt like it lasted about five seconds during which I said something about as coherent as, “Cold is with the monkey’s ears and toes.”

The agent asked me why I was in Australia; because my boyfriend lives here. Then she said I couldn’t keep doing this. She didn’t really specify what “this” was, but went on to repeat several times that I’m not really a tourist. But I have a 12-month visa, I said, and she ignored me. I’m going to apply for a partner visa over the next few months, but “you can’t keep doing this,” she repeated, “You’re not really a tourist”. I asked her what the correct process would be then. “You get married,” she said. “Or apply offshore. That’s what you should have done.” I felt trapped by the first answer and the second ignored the fact that Theo and I have to live together for 12 months before I can apply for the de facto visa. In my haze of weariness and surprise, I said nothing. She said, “Next time, we won’t let you in.” She returned my arrival card and I continued.

I’m glad to be back in Melbourne and back home with Theo. I’m not enjoying the cold and rainy weather or that it’s completely dark out by 6pm, but I’m looking forward to getting back into the swing of things here and continuing to get to know places and meet new people. The encounter with the immigration agent left me shaken, but going to try and not worry about things until there’s something to worry about. Over the next couple of weeks, I’ll be reviewing the paperwork again and getting started on the journey towards residence.

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