“It has been said that a pretty face is a passport. But it’s not, it’s a visa, and it runs out fast.” –Julie Burchill
Following the decision by the United States government to ban entry to government officials linked with the incarceration of embattled Senator Leila de Lima, the response by the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte has sent shivers down the spines of Filipino-Americans. While the current policy only bans entry to the US senators that pushed for the bill－Dick Durbin of Illinois and Patrick Leahy of Vermont－it also requires American citizens to obtain a visa before entering the Philippines. However, I have been told the Philippine government “will not be harsh” to those with plans to visit this year.
The Philippines will be on the receiving end of this mishandling as religious and cultural festivals across the country are expected to attract Fil-Ams throughout the year. Balikbayans should not get caught in the crossfire and have their vacations disrupted because Philippine government officials chose to battle with the mighty United States.
As of October 1, 2019, American citizens can enter 184 countries and territories without a visa for a certain period of time or by acquiring a visa on arrival, which may also be subject to a predetermined amount of time.
According to World Population Review, an online database that tracks global demographics, Americans can travel to 28 countries of the European Union, including the United Kingdom.
However, entry into Russia for American citizens requires a visa that may take up to three weeks for processing, which costs $139; travel to African countries such as Chad, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Niger requires an international certificate of vaccination; a visa for mainland China is required; and anyone with an entry and exit stamp from Israel will be denied entry into Libya, Sudan, and Syria.
In addition, citizens of the United States are banned from traveling to North Korea. Although, US passport holders can obtain a special passport validation from the United States government. Failure to adhere to the rules can result in criminal penalties and having one’s passport revoked.
* * *
Alex P. Vidal, who is based in New York City, used to be the editor for two local dailies in Iloilo./WDJ