I always knew there’d be a little bit of paperwork having to enter the US of A but to be honest the process of applying for an ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization) caught me by surprise. The ESTA is a substitute for obtaining a visa when entering the states and can all be done online. It’s described as ‘an online system run by the US government, determining the preliminary eligibility of visitors’.
Now that’s just peachy and I have no problem with countries wanting to filter out gun-toting, swineflu-carrying gremlins who are bent on destroying humankind as we know it. But the questions on the ESTA made me realise they also want to make sure that anyone who doesn’t know middle-english words of french descent gets in to the country either.
Just to explain here are some of the questions you have to answer:
B) Have you ever been arrested or convicted for an offense or crime involving moral turpitude or a violation related to a controlled substance; or have been arrested or convicted for two or more offenses for which the aggregate sentence to confinement was five years or more; or have been a controlled substance trafficker; or are you seeking entry to engage in criminal or immoral activities?
C) Have you ever been or are you now involved in espionage or sabotage; or in terrorist activities; or genocide; or between 1933 and 1945 were you involved , in any way, in persecutions associated with Nazi Germany or its allies?
Moral what? Turpitude is not a word I’ve ever heard before. Perhaps it’s an americanism. Who knows? But it sent me rushing off to the www.thefreedictionary.com for answers. I was keen to get answers. It was almost like one of those party games, like Balderdash, where you throw a word out there, everyone writes down their take on it and you have to vote on the actual meaning. Well with turpitude I would have guessed some kind of paint thinner or stripper but I would have been a little bit wrong.
The actual definition of turpitude is: noun. depravity or wickedness.
Great now I know but even still ‘moral depravity or wickedness’? Does that include lying to my mum about not actually eating five servings of fruit and vegetables or driving past an old lady walking in the rain? I’m not sure but I wasn’t taking any chances and said no. I also made sure I said no to the question about ‘were you involved , in any way, in persecutions associated with Nazi Germany’. I’m pretty sure that was the correct answer. I guess I’ll find out when touch down at LAX. Perhaps they only accept people who say yes, particularly the one about ‘are you seeking entry to engage in criminal or immoral activities’? I mean you don’t want wowsers coming in to your country and ruining the party for everyone – those snotty-nosed do-gooders who actually respect the law. Where’s the fun in that? Especially when you’re in the home of dog the bounty hunter, the terminator and dirty harry.
Long story short the ESTA came back approved so stage one of breaking into the land of the free has been successful. Let’s hope this is a sign of things to come.