Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Won't Miss #4 - going to immigration (reflection)

Sometimes people talk to me about having worked in Japan as if it were a simple choice that I made and that the door would always be open to me. They are not familiar with the fact that I, as an American, do not have the right to simply waltz into any country I want and work there. These are people who have never had to tangle with visas, even though they are well aware of illegal immigrants in their home country and should be able to put two and two together. I guess they operate from the conceited assumption that Occidental people are so desirable that no country could possibly turn them down when they grace said country with their presence.

The visit I made to immigration was always stressful, though it wasn't necessarily any more so in terms of the logistical and bureaucratic aspects than doing similar things at home (like getting a driver's license or registering to vote). The tension always hinged on the fact that I knew I could be refused on a whim. In America, I always know that there are rules that people must follow when considering my application and they can't say no just because they don't like my look or just have a quota of refusals to fulfill. I personally never experienced this, but I do know other (Western) applicants were often refused for no other reason than it seemed that sometimes they arbitrarily decided someone had to jump through extra hoops. Reapplication always resulted in smooth acceptance with the same paperwork.

I'm pretty sure that anyone who is dealing with immigration in any country is at the mercy of the particular sensibilities of the person processing their application, and that the experience of knowing you could be refused for no good reason was not unique to Japan. However, it was in Japan that I was in that position and I certainly do not miss that aspect of being there.

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