Learn from Tech Crunch: get your visa early

Here in the United States it’s easy to forget how difficult it can be for many of the other 194 countries on this planet to cross borders. Lengthly and time-consuming visas are required for many travelers, resulting in weeks of paperwork, long lines and hassle from customs officials and airports around the planet.

For most of our journeys, all that we have to do is show up at a border, flash our passport and get a stamp.

Traveling to countries like China, Vietnam, Russia and Brazil, however, is a bit more challenging. These nations require special, pre-approved visas that need to be authorized by a local consulate, an agency that checks your intentions, processes your request and issues you a special visa. It’s not a difficult process, it just takes a little bit of planning and, most of all, time.

There’s a lively discussion going on at Tech Cruch this morning centered around the journey (and subsequent article written) by Sarah Lacy en route to Brazil. The article is basically a complaint against slow visa processing and the general papwerwork requirements of the institution,citing the bureaucracy’s sloth resulting in her canceled trip to South America.

She writes: “You want foreign investment and attention, Brazil? Here’s an idea: LET PEOPLE ENTER THE DAMN COUNTRY. You want to show your IT prowess? How about outfitting your consulates with computer systems that work? Or maybe rolling it out slowly so other offices could handle the overflow. Or training people on it first. The country should be embarrassed, and its businesses should be furious.”
Among other issues, she blames a new computer system implemented by the Brazilian Government in slowing down her application.

There are currently 534 comments countering Ms. Lacy’s argument, many pointing out that anyone who took four months to plan their trip and learn Portuguese should have spent more time filing for a visa. Others are angry at the apparent elitism from an American who expects all-star treatment during the customs process.

I’ll reserve my judgement, but I will add one more data point. Last Tuesday I express mailed my passport to the Chicago Consulate. It was sitting in my mailbox the following Wednesday, and I’ll be happily on my way to Rio de Janiero on the 25th. To anyone who missed their appointment with Ms. Lacy this month, send me an email and I’ll buy you a beer. I swear, most of us are nice.