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Random thought, but anyone else supportive of the idea of splitting Travel into ... Travel, and Visas?

Just a musing that occurred to me today.

EDIT: Let's see what happens - Area 51 proposal

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    I don't get the point of closing a spin-off proposal by saying this topic belongs to the parent SE website. – JoErNanO Nov 12 '14 at 11:55
  • @JoErNanO yeah, and I nearly went to argue the point, but don't have the energy at present. I'll probably try again at some time in the near future. – Mark Mayo Nov 12 '14 at 11:58
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I upvoted the question, since the visa question are indeed annoying. I have a mixed opinion here however. I am with @Relaxed here. Should we really split up until every detail. I said it many times, and I will say it again. Creating expats and travel as separate stack exchanges was a poor decision.

Stack exchanges are not based on the type of question, but the type of communities that might be able to answer your question. So there are indeed quite distinct differences between expats and seasonal travelers, the expat community might be able to provide valuable answers to a travel question, for the simple fact that they are in away local, but at the same come from the same cultural background as the seasonal traveler.

By fending the expat community of, you exclude this source of information. By putting expats in the same group, you only meet people that have the same problems. I am an expat, but to be honest expats.travel.se is the most boring stack exchange I can imagine. It simple doesn't solve my problems to the extent that travel.se does. The fact that @markmayo is also the initiating moderator on expats, as he was on travel, is kind of proof of my point.

SO indeed, we could support a separate visa.se, but then we simply enclose people with visa problems. How annoying the visa questions might be, they are asked to the right community on travel.se

So in my opinion yet another travel.se kind of site, would inflate the concept.

As an illustration, I still rely heavy on stackoverflow for my programming questions. There is however programmers.se, where I have never find anything valuable.

  • Couldn't agree more. – RoflcoptrException Nov 12 '14 at 10:47
  • initiating moderator? I didn't initiate anything, I just got put forward and accepted :) I jumped on there mainly to help expats grow, I wanted to make sure it succeeded and kept travel about travel. MTCW. – Mark Mayo Nov 12 '14 at 11:59
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tl;dr: Attractive idea but not practical, for the time being at least.

There are about 200 authorities that may or may not require visas from citizens who are not their own. Even with some grouped together (eg Schengen) that is a lot of country/would-be-traveller combinations which may then be further multiplied by types of visa (tourist, short-term etc.) The result is a lot of questions and answers that do not much interest me as I can really only relate to those for my own citizenship and even so not all of those.

JoErNanO is correct that the visa questions here are largely a case of LMGTFY and I too don’t much like them.

However:

There is clearly a need for advice about visas. In my experience, a few Consulates have proved very helpful but in many cases not. Language has often been a barrier over the telephone when queries are time constrained. (I have a theory that some consular officials may be employed because their connections have landed them a job in a desirable location rather more than for their expertise.)

Any kind of contact with some Consulates can be difficult – eg premium rate telephone numbers, restricted "opening" hours, and/or lack of publication of e-addresses.

Web sites, where they exist, have often had broken links, been “under construction” or down. Even where in more than the local language, with English seemingly the most likely alternative, quite what is meant by some very ugly (mechanical?) translation is often not at all clear. Fluency in English, which not all users here have, can help re-interpretation.

A disadvantage of googling for oneself is that many of the more popular sites (for example those that charge for the administration of obtaining visas from the authorities and pay for advertising to gain priority in searches) are not kept fully up-to-date. I have some sympathy since discovering an application form, freshly downloaded from an official site, showed a street address for the relevant Consulate that had been vacated by them at least a year earlier. A “confirmed” means of departure may continue to be a problem where even non-refundable air-tickets are expensive yet apparently necessary just to apply for a visa – which if not granted could make the ticket worthless.

It may be that those most closely involved with such regulations (eg diplomats) are those who do not themselves suffer them (ie diplomatic passports). Whether or not that is the reason, advice like “allow up to a minimum of 40 days” and such other nonsense is commonplace and it may require practical experience to determine how such gibberish is interpreted in practice. Even where the stated requirements are expressed in an understandable way they may not reflect reality. One Consulate/web site made no mention whatever of VOA and only through a friend did I find out that was the norm (and significantly less expensive - which I doubt is coincidence). In another case I went through a complicated rigmarole of fingerprinting, letter of invitation stamped by an in-country authority etc etc etc only to meet someone on the street, of my nationality, who had arrived the previous day with no more than a passport and a letter (which he was not asked to show) from his (commercial) employer.

Hence I think Q&As about visas is a very valuable service. I doubt though a dedicated site would ever pass the Area 51 requirements, so it may be Travel SE or go without/rely on Trip Advisor etc. There seem, understandably, to be very many people with such questions but on TSE a quite small number who provide quality answers to them. SE communities work best when assistance is “paid forward” and the flow is in both directions. I fear that a handful of experts to be relied upon to answer nothing but questions about visas would soon dwindle to no or next to no experts interested in continuing indefinitely to google for others.

Were there separate sites I might visit “Visas” now and again when I have a specific enquiry for myself but would not sign-in regularly on the off chance I might be able to add some personal experience of relevance to another. That may be selfish but JoErNanO seems to indicate something similar with “I can start ignoring the new website” and I suspect there would be others.

Perhaps more likely to be viable would be an alternative site for travel regulations in general, say encompassing Customs duties, luggage allowances, other permits, ticket refund rules, “open jaw”, early return of hired cars, etc. There is a theme to these (arbitrary/temporal/administrative) which is, I think, distinct from a large part of TSE as it stands (personal experience/permanent/advisory).

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I've decided to create an Area51 site on visas. We'll see how this goes, to gauge whether or not there's enough interest.

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I don't see how constantly splitting Stack Exchange sites into ever smaller sub-sites helps anybody.

You don't find visa questions interesting? So what? Nobody needs to like/understand/read and answer questions about each and every programming language to find Stack Overflow useful. There are some tools to focus on what you like and, in the Travel/Expat case, the traffic is so low that you don't even need them.

To the extent that some visa questions need to be improved or closed, it seems we are doing just fine dealing with that here (requesting updates, using the extensive body of questions and answers we have already built to close them as duplicates, etc.) and it would be just as much of a problem on a separate site.

  • @pnuts Most (successful) new sites extend the model rather than divide existing content (e.g. Travel was not extracted from SO but opened up a whole new area). – Relaxed Nov 11 '14 at 14:31
  • Who said I didn't find them interesting? I answer a ton of them. I think they're one of my top tags. It was just an idea - there's no one very-up-to-date site for visas, and it could become quite a specialist site. The CMs have deemed it too specialised now anyway, and closed the proposal, so the idea is moot. – Mark Mayo Nov 11 '14 at 23:13
  • @MarkMayo “You” was meant as a stand-in for all those who argued along those lines and for the reader in general, not for you personally. – Relaxed Nov 12 '14 at 8:57
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To be frank, I don't like visa-related questions. I feel that most of the answers can be found on the consulate/embassy/ministry-of-whatever website. If not, a quick phone call to the relevant authority should be the next option. Instead what happens is that a question is posted here, and the community does the internet search for the OP. I'm not sure this is the purpose of the website.

So now I am torn between saying yes or no. One one hand we could split it, so that I can start ignoring the new website and get rid of such questions. :) On the other hand I question the overall website quality that could derive from what I think are low quality questions.

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    Well, let's see what happens – Mark Mayo Nov 11 '14 at 12:23
  • That's not true, visa questions are often non-trivial and getting good info is hard. For me, well-meaning advice by people who never actually had to deal with the issue (‘just call them’) is more annoying than the questions themselves. – Relaxed Nov 11 '14 at 13:37
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    @Relaxed They are clearly non-trivial. I just think most of them are a classic case of RTFM. – JoErNanO Nov 11 '14 at 15:28
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    “non-trivial” means precisely that it's more complicated than that… – Relaxed Nov 11 '14 at 15:47
  • I mean non-trivial because immigrating/emigrating is never easy, both from an emotional as well as a logistical standpoint. Just for kicks I checked these: travel.stackexchange.com/questions/tagged/visas The problems are so specific that probably no one will have an answer off the top of their head. Best thing to do: call/email/smoke-signal and ask. – JoErNanO Nov 11 '14 at 15:51
  • @JoErNanO We are back to your earlier comment but that's naive, in many cases, you can't get help from the consulates/authorities. Just pretending it's a solution does not make it so. (and incidentally, I am the one who said “non-trivial” so maybe you could let me be the judge of what I meant by that…) – Relaxed Nov 15 '14 at 17:45

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