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Sunday, November 14, 2010

Traveling to Egypt on a Diplomatic (or Official) Passport

This week Brandon has been on duty.  He has gotten a very busy duty week, as we have four days of vacation this week and he will have to take anything that normally would be sent to the ACS section during working hours.  Duty week is always interesting (for me) and usually involves less sleep than a regular week.

Most of me is unhappy to hear the phone ring at two in the morning, but the part of me that covertly reads tabloids in the check-out line is excited to hear what ridiculous thing American citizens abroad have been up to lately.  A whole website should be devoted to the calls that come in.  Brandon's mantra when the children are doing dangerous things is "never become a duty call in your own district."

Last night, after a busy day of touring with my aunt and uncle,  Brandon's phone rang.  On the line was a man who was in the airport with his wife and four children, aged eleven to five.  They were coming to Egypt for a week-long holiday from their overseas post and were being held up at passport control.

Brandon asked what the problem was, and the man said that he was unable to get the necessary visa to enter Egypt because he and his family are traveling on diplomatic passports.  To enter Egypt, travelers only have to purchase a visa in the airport right before going through passport control.  It's simple, it's easy, and it only costs fifteen dollars.  When we were having trouble with Edwin's passport last year, that's how he got in the country.

A tourist visa, however, only works for tourist passports.  Diplomatic passports require diplomatic visas, which can only be obtained from the Egyptian embassy in whatever country the traveler is coming from.  Most countries don't have this stipulation, and I know veterans of the FS who have never owned tourists passports.  I've never run into a problem, and neither has Brandon.

However, Egypt feels that their diplomats are treated unfairly in the US, and so our diplomats and official travelers are subject to the same rule.

So this poor man, his wife, and his children are in the airport awaiting a return flight after having spent a night in the airport and perhaps having to spend another night in the airport because of full flights due to Eid.  Last night as we laid down in our soft, comfortable bed and went to sleep, I thought of this poor family stuck in an uncomfortable, dirty airport with their holiday ruined and money wasted.  All because of a difference in passports.

9 comments:

UnkaDave said...

Oh, man! (not to be confused with Oman!) That's sad and wasteful. It's a shame when innocent folks get caught in spitting contests between countries. Should have asked first, I guess. Kind of like when your mother gets in one of her cleaning fits and you (or your stuff) get caught in the middle.

Paula Henderson said...

Oh dear. I feel for that poor family. 24 or more hours in any airport, let along Cairo, is too long!

Sarah Flib said...

That stinks. How frustrating for that poor family.

Linsey said...

Hi, I'm visiting your blog via this week's round-up. We have some friends in Cairo right now, maybe you know Jim and Jaimee and their kids Jimmy and Jessie -- and they just adopted a third? Probably not, it's a huge mission after all.

Anyway, so sad for that family. Your post reminded me of one time when my husband was duty officer a couple years back, we really should start that website. It is just incredible the kinds of calls that come through. Here is the post, you know, in case you're interested.
http://www.ramblesandruminations.com/2008/05/duty-calls.html

Sara said...

I (finally) put up the Roundup - and you're on it! Check it out here:

http://wifemommywoman.blogspot.com/2010/11/state-department-blog-roundup.html

hannah said...

Urgh, I remember when that policy went into effect in 2008 or so. My solution - always travel with tourist and dip. I swear, I'm like a baby without her rattle if I have to travel with only one passport now! There's a CA page on the intranet that has a list of visa regs for every country, which is handy...

I totally support the website for crazy duty calls, but we'd have to keep it private! Maybe a list serve of shame?

Donna said...

How frustrating! And I confess I'd have done the same thing. I always travel on the dip passport, because the only time we travel is from post to another point and back again. I'm one of the guilty ones: no tourist passport in my possession. I suppose I should get one, because we aren't far from Egypt and I really want to visit.

damandac said...

I could see a CA version of "Texts from Last Night". If only it could be set up on the intranet under the auspices of training and best practices :-)

That said, I am a bit stunned people are still traveling with only one passport. It just seems inappropriate to put a tourist visa in an official passport...and I thought the FAM said something about this as well!

Bridget said...

In Russia we weren't allowed to travel outside the country on our dip passports. We could enter and leave Russia on it but that was it. Now I see why...