Meeting the Immigration Officer for the First Time

I’m scared of planes–of flying. But it wasn’t that that scared me off my wits some weeks ago when we flew to Singapore. It was meeting the immigration officer.

We arrived at the airport extremely early, more than 2 hours our scheduled flight. That’s how I wanted things, really, since I didn’t take advantage of early check-in, it’s our first time to be in an international airport, and we didn’t have a faintest idea about the whole departure process.

Anyway, after we checked in and obtained our ticket and paid the other fees, we proceeded to the immigration area, only to find the section closed, and we had to wait for around 30 minutes. That was enough to psyche myself up. I wanted to get past this process as soon as possible, so I had to answer correctly. I rehearsed the possible questions over and over:

“Where are you going?”
“How much are you bringing?”
“What are you going to do?”
“Are you meeting up someone?”
“Where’s your invitation letter?”

The last two actually made me apprehensive. The main reason why I was flying to Singapore was to meet my brother, and yet I didn’t have any invitation letter at all. I could just say we’re taking a good weekend break (which is also true), but sometimes when I get really nervous, I tend to tell the truth. So I repeated the last question over and over and rehearsed my answers in my mind.

Close to 11. The door to the immigration area officially opened, and we’re the second in line. The first one didn’t have any problem at all, so I thought we also had this in the bag. Wrong. The moment I laid my eyes on the immigration officer, I knew things would be quite difficult. We greeted him enthusiastically, hoping it would ease the tension a bit, but he didn’t say anything. He didn’t wince, break into a wee smile–nothing.

He took all our papers, and while taking notes blurted out the first question: “Are you meeting some friends and relatives there?” The husband wanted to say something, but I cut him off and blurted yes. Face palm.

He looked at me. “So where’s your invitation letter?”

“We don’t have an invitation letter.” My knees were already shaking.

“You’re meeting someone there, and you don’t have an invitation letter?”

“Well, my brother lives in a home that doesn’t accept any visitors. Besides, he’s still in school. He can’t support us there.” Honestly, until now, I am not sure if my answer made any sense.

Silence. More writing from him. More sweat breaking out from my pores.

“OK, fill this out and come back to me.” Everything was a blur by then. All I remembered was filling out the immigration form with the reason why we’re leaving, when we are coming back, where we are staying, the address of our accommodation, how much money we have, and how much we spent (or about to spend) for the travel.

After 10 minutes, we went back to the immigration officer, who then turned us over to another immigration officer. More questions. This time, I was fairly quiet. I couldn’t describe what I was feeling at the moment. I wasn’t resolved to the idea we might never get to fly, but I wasn’t as enthusiastic as few moments ago. It didn’t help that the immigration officer we’re talking now just denied a passenger from leaving. The only consolation was that he was gracious enough to offer me a seat, so I could control my trembling and my nearly falling tears.

Ten more minutes. After writing some more and having all our documents photocopied or scanned, he shouted, “Allow!” You can just imagine how relieved I was.

Right then I felt I wore the biggest smile in my life.

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