Auck Ward

A Honeymove Blog

Tag: australia

Visa Trouble in Australia and New Zealand

It is the responsibility of the passenger to secure the visa needed for travel to his or her destination. I, uh, didn’t take responsibility for looking up the visa requirements for Australia or New Zealand.

I’ve entered New Zealand twice before, no problem. And Australia likes Americans, right? And the airline would tell me if I need something, right?

No. Don’t be me, lest you like letting out low and loud f-bombs at airport check-in counter and potentially wasting cash. State Department has information on the visas needed for any country an American is going to; any country’s foreign ministry should also have this information online.

Otherwise, you’ll end up in these sorts of easily avoidable situations:

Visa Requirement to Australia

At Changi airport in Singapore, the Emirates check-in attendant asked me for a ETA number. WTF is that? I thought. Hashtag #WTFETA. It’s an electronic travel authority number, and every American needs one before he or she arrives in Australia.

Kiwi explained it as similar to ESTA numbers. Again, WTF is that? Hashtag #WTFESTA. It’s a number that travelers from visa waiver countries (including Australia and New Zealand) need in order to travel to the States for short-term visits.

Well, crap. With all due respect, airline, isn’t that something you needed when we booked the tickets and you took my passport number? Now, I’m having delusions of spending $300+ for a hotel room in Singapore if I can’t get this ETA number. (It doesn’t matter. I should have known this.)

Cue the chase for a wi-fi passcode to buy this ETA. Luckily, you can buy the ETA 24 hours a day online for $20 AUD. I got my ETA, gave it to the Emirates attendant. Check in: success.

Good ending to this story; don’t want to think about how screwed I may have been if it didn’t work out.

Visa requirement for New Zealand

While in Melbourne, Kiwi did online check-in for our trip to Auckland. Air New Zealand would not allow Tina to be checked in without proof of a ticket that I will eventually leave.

Here’s the issue: I planned to enter New Zealand on a tourist visa, which is the visa I will use until my work visa is processed. If you get a tourist visa, you’ll have to eventually leave after 90 days. Air New Zealand requires proof of onward journey in order to process the check-in.

I did apply for my work visa in DC, but it was returned on a signature technicality and there wasn’t enough time to apply again before leaving for Japan. So my plan was to resubmit the visa application after arriving in New Zealand.

After a call to Air New Zealand, the operator suggested buying a refundable ticket. So I have a refundable ticket to Sydney for March. I showed the flight number to the Air New Zealand attendant at the airport, and was able to check in.

The border official at Auckland airport did ask about my status, and we told her my situation. So currently I am legal; and Immigration New Zealand has my application for a second go-round. Hopefully the visa is approved by the end of January.

In short: Touring Australia? Get an ETA number before. Touring New Zealand? Have your outbound trip info ready.

Got a good [bad] visa story? Share it in the comments.

Reaction to Watching Sydney Siege News Coverage from Melbourne

A note: I sat on this blog post for four days now. I waited to post this, because of the sensitive nature of recent news events, and to ensure that the basic facts haven’t changed over time. Also, I was not confident that I had anything worthwhile to add and I didn’t want to do an exercise in hearing and reading myself just for the hell of it.

I decided to post this because I think there is some value this post, based on the experiences I’ve had with the news media as a student, a participant and as part of its audience. I also hope that if I share my thoughts, it could be an opportunity to learn more, read more, hear more from you, be it positive or negative feedback.

I hope this post shows my intention to discuss things in a compassionate manner. I look forward to your feedback via comments or via email.


I started writing this blog post from Melbourne (Australia) on Monday night, watching live news coverage of a man who took hostages in a Lindt chocolate cafe in Sydney. Ultimately, the Tuesday morning news reported that three people died, including the gunman.

“An appalling and ugly incident,” Australian PM Tony Abbott called this event in a press conference he gave late Tuesday afternoon.

I felt immensely saddened by this event. I felt worse for watching the news and mentally comparing it to how a U.S. media outlet would have covered this event. Perhaps I wanted to observe how the media handled the event because I conditioned myself to do this in my last position of employment in DC, in media relations. I was part of a team that would arrange interviews based on international news. Or perhaps it’s because the news available to me in Melbourne wasn’t CNN or U.S. cable news.

In fact, one of the morning shows, Sunrise on Channel 7, did do a piece Tuesday morning on how it played in the U.S., with snippets from CNN and Fox News.

Watching live footage of horrific events is a bizarre experience. Sadly, it’s not the first horrific live news event I’ve seen as part of the television audience: I came home from school to see Columbine being evacuated. I walked into third period English class junior year and the teacher was watching the events of 9/11 and worrying about her two grown sons. Years later, I was home from college and remember watching Virginia Tech on lockdown live.

What I found noticeably different of the Sydney siege news coverage was:

1. Concern about how reports will affect the Australian Muslim population: recognizing the event as a one-off; discussing how the hashtag #illridewithyou was used to identify people who will ride mass transit with those choosing to wear religious clothing; BuzzFeed highlighting “12 Muslim Australians Who Crushed it in 2014″.
2. Very deliberate recognition of what words to use in reporting and in interviews: One example: Rachel Jacobs (who sparked the #illridewithyou movement) said she declined interviews because “At a time of heightened emotions, a misplaced word or phrase could cause offence, requiring numerous explanations and reassurances.”
3. A focus on how to explain the event in an age appropriate way to children: On Sunrise, a child psychologist recommended shielding children under five; age-appropriate explanations for those over five. I’ve seen this sort of segment done in the U.S., particularly on radio morning shows, and it still surprises me when it happens.

I can’t imagine what a difficult day it would have been in newsrooms, where outlets likely reported on this, another shooting in Pennsylvania, and then the Peshawar shooting in Pakistan.

What an awful few days. I think in the future, the coverage of this event in Sydney may be something that is studied in newsrooms on how to do responsible, cautious live coverage in the face of horror. Probably not now, but eventually.

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