You came to college with a scholarship, graduated with honors from university, and got that excellent job in a blue-chip company that even your American classmates coveted.
You acquired a green card that was sponsored by your company where they think you are extraordinary, and bought that single family beachfront house in Malibu. It has already been six years since you received your US permanent residency (green card), but for one reason or another, you decided to keep your Nepali passport – and now it’s time to travel the world!! What can you expect with a Nepali passport?
You will quickly find that a Nepali passport can be a source of constant grief wherever you travel. From Tokyo to Saigon, Berlin to Istanbul, Paris to Venice, the immigration officer is going to give you a puzzled “which planet is Nepal on?” look as he or she is almost certainly unaccustomed to seeing a Nepali passport. Except at a handful of the world’s airports, the immigration officer is going to cross-reference the Nepali passport against their country’s master immigration directory, scrutinize it to ensure it is not forged, cross-examine you to make certain that your visa and travel documents are, in fact, legitimate, that you are the person pictured in the passport, and that you can prove without even a shred of doubt that you will not overstay your welcome in that country.
Folks, who can blame you for being annoyed after such an encounter? While your initial reactions are likely to be anger humiliation, or both, just understand that the immigration officer is simply following protocol. Don’t take their actions personally. The inquiry is not a personal inclination of how they feel about you, but how the host country’s government feels about us Nepalis traveling to/through their country.
You will also realize that whenever you are applying for a visa, you’ll need to submit a lot of paperwork – and you will probably have to spend significant time and money to have your paperwork processed. For a university visa to a country in the European Union, it may take you months just to get the necessary documents, such as getting a police report from a place you never lived in the country of your birth, or a piece of paper that certifies you were born in the city that is listed in your passport. These papers must be submitted by the village chairman, translated, and then verified by several different government agencies.
This is truly a reflection about the condition of our country. Just face it, our government’s reputation is pathetic, and even as things improve it will take a very long time before any positive changes change perceptions in the rest of the world – and even longer for other governments to change the way they deal with Nepali passports.
Over and over again, despite the sweltering heat or the freezing snow, you will have to stand in long embassy queues with Nigerians, Sudanese, and Bangladeshis, who face the same level of scrutiny by most other countries. These are times you wished you had an American, Japanese, Swiss, or Australian passport which open many doors with a wave of the hand.
While it’s annoying to stand in line and feel humiliated after these experiences, just try to make the best of the situation. Let the immigration officer do his or her job. After they are done, tell them where Nepal is, that it’s home to Mount Everest, that the Nepali people are extremely friendly, and that when they have their next vacation, they can see for themselves the beautiful country and people. They might not remember you, but they are bound to remember what you told them about Nepal and the Himalayas, and the next time another person passes by with a Nepali passport, they might be treated more kindly.
Despite the political events in the last decade, Nepal still has an outstanding reputation for its beauty, its generous hospitality and smiling people. For example, many people in Germany or the Netherlands have already been to Nepal, know somebody who has been there, or wish to visit it at some point in their lives. Don’t say or do anything to change that!
Oct 13, 2006, 11:35 AM: Tourist guide in the Lanshan monastery in Taipei to a Nepali visitor – this guide had visited Nepal several years ago: “That water fountain in front of the monastery is there for people to symbolically cleanse their hearts before they enter the monastery, but that is not necessary for the Nepali people, because their hearts are already clean.”
* Make sure your passport and visas are current, and the dates and names on the passport are correct and match those on the visa.
* Ensure that you have the proper documentation with you, such as I-20, financial affidavits, or any other necessary supporting documents.
* Don’t take the immigration officers’ actions personally. Be cognizant about the realities of the diplomatic situation between Nepal and the country you are traveling to.
* Be friendly and diplomatic. Leave a positive impression as you are the Nepali spokesperson and many a time you may be the only Nepali person they are going to meet in their lifetime.