An ecstasy of fumbling – Canadian edition

I didn’t sleep much last night, partly because I was worried that I would oversleep and miss my flight, and partly because I stayed up watching the incredibly crap Day Of The Dead: Bloodline movie on Netflix (about the only virtue of that film is it’s short, and even then I gave up with an hour to go). I woke at 5:45 and began to get ready, and then while I was showering I remembered I didn’t have authorisation to fly to Canada.

For the last nine years or so, the US has charged me $14 every two years for an electronic authorisation to travel there. It used to be that I filled in a visa waiver form on the plane there, but now it’s electronic and you pay for it. Half of it goes to fund US tourism organisations, which always struck me as a bit rich – but maybe it’s just being explicit about where the marketing costs come from.

I’m privileged by no better reason than being born in the right country at the right time – not everyone gets a visa waiver, so I should be grateful for that. The trouble is, with a British passport you get so used to travelling around Asia and not needing to do any paperwork before you arrive in a country (exceptions for me being China and Myanmar, in the last decade) that you can get caught out when you go somewhere that wants you to fill forms out in advance.

And so it was that while I was showering I remembered reading that last year Canada introduced the Electronic Travel Authorisation, which is one letter less than the US’ ESTA, and only costs $7 for three years’ validity. Which feels like a real bargain. But not if you remember with less than three hours to departure that you haven’t filled it in yet.

Cue a panic-stricken half hour, where first I wasted time trying to find a confirmation in my email that I’d already applied for it (I hadn’t) and then trying to follow the online form (which refused to accept an address with a – in it; in almost every apartment block in Singapore your address is floor number-unit number), swearing copiously, and then when I’d finally got my act together, being authorised to travel within 5 minutes.

So that part of it was satisfyingly quick. Perhaps if it took 3 days to process, I’d have been more organised and not left it to the last minute.

I got a taxi to the airport, and then couldn’t check in at the automated kiosk because it wanted to see my visa. Cue another bout of panic where I was sent to the Assistance counter, and then my passport apparently crashed the computer, and finally the email confirmation from Canada was enough to allow them to issue my boarding pass, and then I was done, and free to wander the hallowed corridors of Changi International once again. At least I won’t have to go through this again until 2021…

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