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Re: [CON] GZG East Coast Convention

From: "Allan Goodall" <agoodall@h...>
Date: Sat, 24 Jan 2004 10:08:05 -0600
Subject: Re: [CON] GZG East Coast Convention

On 25 Jan 2004 at 1:57, Alan and Carmel Brain wrote:

> Please make sure that you either have the right visa, or don't need a
> visa.

Jon, as a Canadian now living in the U.S., I _strongly_ advise you to 
heed Alan's advice. America's Customs service and BCIS (formerly the 
INS) have always been more worried about people working and making 
money in the U.S. than anything else. 9/11 has only given them more 
tools to be a pain about it.

First, check to see if you need a visa. The convention is next month? 
Chances are you're not going to have time to get a visa. If that's 
the case, do _not_ take any figures, books, etc. with you. Simply 
state at Customs that you're here for a game convention and to do 
some touristy stuff. (Note that Lancaster is _very_ close to 
Gettysburg; I'm not saying you lie if you have no intention of 
touring the area, but you're going to be in Civil War country, so 
it's not like you're planning to go to, oh, the middle of Nebraska as 
a "tourist").

If you want to have figures at the con, find someone (Indy, perhaps?) 
that you can trust and ship the stuff to them as a gift. Will Indy 
sell them? Does Indy owe you money? Beats me. I don't care and I 
don't want to know. I don't know your non-business monetary 
arrangements with your American friends. Customs doesn't need to know 
either. Well, they'll say you do but that's between you and them. 

For that matter, if you plan to just give stuff away as prizes, 
shipping them to one of the Americans showing up is probably just 
fine; you're not getting anything of value for them.

Obviously bringing the figures over and selling them here would save 
a lot of money in shipping for con goers, and would have them right 
there at the convention. If you don't have the right visa, you could 
have the goods confiscated and you shipped back on the next plane. 

> The system is set up with little latitude for discretion or common
> sense - and where latitude is given, they always play it safe and by
> the book, and reject the passenger unless the book covers the *exact*
> situation. 

I've had to wade through the BCIS morass. There are usually good 
reasons behind the mountains of bureaucracy, even if those reasons 
themselves get lost in that same mountain. Why kick out a journalist 
who doesn't have the right visa? That seems stupid when common sense 
could allow them in on a business visa. Could it be because a 
journalist's credentials lets you get to public buildings with a 
camera and ask pointed questions? Could it be because someone feels 
that a terrorist could pose as a journalist to get access with film 
equipment and go unbothered by local police? Could it be because only 
_real_ journalists can get a journalist visa but a wider range of 
people could get a regular business visa?

My point is that one person's "common sense" is another person's 
security breach. No one at Customs and Immigration wants to let 
another terrorist into the country on their watch. The U.S. 
government feels it's under siege. The country itself is quite safe, 
and you won't have any problems once you clear Customs. 

Just remember that if you play by the book you'll have no trouble. I 
had the right visa and paperwork when I came into the country and it 
was the only time Customs officials were outright friendly to me. 
They see _so_ many people trying to get away with something, from 
something as innocuous as trying to slip in illegal pepperoni, to 
something serious as coming in with forged documents. Like all law 
enforcement types everywhere, they see "bad guys" first until you've 
proven otherwise.


Allan Goodall

"The time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time." - Bertrand Russell

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