“Describe Your Mustache” And Other Strange Visa Questions

visa application form
Dr Aek Muldoon, Flickr

Anyone who has done a lot of travel understands that travel-related bureaucracy falls into its own special category of weird and unusual. The bizarre questions you get asked on customs forms or during the immigration process can leave you scratching your head, and now a new survey has revealed the truly wacko questions that are sometimes asked during the visa application process.

A poll by a visa submission website asked travelers to recount the most unusual questions they had ever been asked. Among the strangest, was a question on a Mexican visa form asking the applicant to “describe their beard/mustache.” The responses applicants could choose from included “scanty,” “bushy” or “clipped.” Meanwhile, a man traveling to a Middle Eastern country was asked “how many wives do you intend to bring?” during his application process.Some seemingly odd questions may have a rational basis for being on the application form — Australia, for instance, which takes quarantine very seriously, asks if travelers “have been to a farm in the past six weeks.” Others just boggle the mind. Several travelers were asked, “What side of the bed does your wife sleep on?” when applying for a U.S. visa, while those heading to China were asked about the reason for visiting, with “visit” being one of the available responses.

Those behind the survey say that while the questions may seem weird to us, it’s simply a sign of cultural differences, and travelers should be careful not to joke when filling out visa forms or answering immigration questions.

Tell us, what’s the strangest visa question you’ve ever been asked?

Word Lens: the iPhone app that will change travel

Word Lens iPhone app

There aren’t many apps that come along and significantly alter the way we live or travel, but this is one of them. The future is here.

Word Lens, released yesterday by QuestVisual, is an iPhone application that analyzes text in either Spanish or English and produces live translations in real time on your iPhone’s screen. Just point your iPhone’s camera at a sign, menu, or document and the application will display the translated text on top of the given object; arguably the most useful iteration of augmented reality to date.

Founders Otavio Good and John DeWeese have been hard at work for 2 1/2 years to make this a reality, and promise to expand with more languages soon. The app is available for free in the iTunes store, but the Spanish to English and English to Spanish dictionaries each cost $4.99.

At the moment, the application only processes text word-for-word, so there is no grammatical evaluation. But this is still useful for deciphering road signs, menus, and the multitude of printed text that one encounters when traveling in a foreign country.

DeWeese commented that they are also looking into non-latin character sets such as chinese, which is (understandably) “a few orders of magnitude more complex”.

So if you have an iPhone, head on over to the app store and download it for free to try out the demo and believe the magic yourself. If not, check out the video below.

National Geographic Glimpse program accepting applications

If you are between the ages of 18 and 34 and will be living abroad for at least ten weeks between January and July of 2010, the National Geographic Glimpse program wants to hear from you.

Glimpse correspondents will take photos and write stories about their experiences abroad, receive training and support from professional editors, get a $600 stipend, and have the possibility of being featured in National Geographic Magazine.

Candidates do not have to be US citizens, but they must have access to the internet while abroad and commit to working with the program editors on their submissions, which will include photos, stories about the place they are living, the people they meet, and the experiences they share. Applicants need to submit two references and a writing sample, plus an $18 fee for consideration.

Applications are due November 8, and finalists will be announced December 15, 2009. If your time abroad doesn’t coincide with the spring schedule, you can apply for the fall program (August to December) starting in April, 2010.