1. The classic visa trade.
Visas are blunt instruments; the cheap baseball bats of international travel. Unlike said baseball bats, however, visas are pricier and more passive-aggressive. Your country thinks that the citizens of my country are going to try to sneak into your country to hog your jobs or lounge in your social net? That’ll be $150 for a three week stay, Swede. Or how about a nice local example: after Canada failed to allow Emirati Airlines, the national passenger carrier of the United Arab Emirates, to establish more frequent flights to Toronto, the UAE slapped a visa on Canadian visitors. (Canada, as a typically paranoid Western nation, has always required visas for UAE citizens.)
2. HIV discrimination.
Most of the countries in the world that demand negative HIV tests from prospective visitors instituted their rules decades ago during a time of paranoia and ignorance, a place we wish we could call “the past.” Alas, it is 2012, and in the tourism equivalent of insisting that Geritol cures “tired blood”, dozens of countries around the world require negative HIV tests for prospective immigrants or even long-term visa applications.
3. Hefty fines and long detentions for illegal immigrants in Australia and Italy
We understand that every Fortress State needs to deter intrusion, but the tools that most countries seem to be using – long, habeas corpus-flouting detentions and large fines – seem fruitless and draconian. Is the stateless African caught illegally in Italy going to suddenly find 5,000 euros, possibly with the help of a treasure map? Is throwing a child into a walled compound in the outback going to deter that child from trying to flee whatever terrible situation led them to Australia in the first place?
4. Women need male relatives to visit Saudi Arabia.
It’s hardly a secret that Saudi Arabia is out of step with Western standards of gender equity. (It carries the dubious honour of being the only country in the world to ban women drivers, despite a series of recent protests, but presumably with the blessing of every hack comedian from the '80s.) So perhaps it isn’t surprising that women stopping over in the country need to be accompanied by a spouse or male relative to qualify for transit visas.
5. Friendly repressive leaders welcome...
There is a US law that prevents corrupt foreign leaders and their families from obtaining visas. Sounds good, right? The only problem is that it is enforced only when it is convenient. America picks and chooses friends like a social-climbing high schooler: if there’s something in it for them, you’re in. If you might make America look a little bad but can still provide something cool, like lots of cheap oil or a military base, you’re good. Such is the case with Teodoro Nguema Obiang, the offspring of the corrupt leader of small African nation Equatorial Guinea, who retreats to a massive compound in California several times a year with no visa hassles, despite the restrictions America places on other repressive African regimes like Zimbabwe. (Obiang, by the way, resides in Malibu, where his moral corruption and gross materialism make him very out of place.)
6. Unless they’re not!
The UK is coming up with its own potentially unenforced regulation, denying people with a history of “human rights abuses” from entering the country just in time for the London Olympics. Whose evidence will suffice in this case? Will citizens be punished for their leaders’ crimes? Or will the rule succeed in preventing the rich and unscrupulous from waltzing into merry olde England whenever they want? (Most importantly: does this mean they are not going to keep Madonna?)
7. Test cheats!
For up to 11,000 Australian dollars, would-be immigrants could get fake language test results from Curtin University to qualify for skilled immigration programs. Australia’s immigration officials caught instructors and administrators at the language centre accepting bribes from aspiring Australians. Is it just me, or could you get some really great English language lessons for that kind of money?
8. Wet feet, dry feet.
One of the most notorious and peculiar American anti-illegal immigration measures, the so-called “Wet Feet, Dry Feet” rule saw (mostly Cuban) illegal immigrants apprehended on the water deported immediately, while granting those apprehended on the land temporary visas and opportunities for refugee status. America’s message: don’t get caught in a boat. Especially not a houseboat. Come on, those aren’t real houses.