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What ‘Holiday in the Wild’ Left Out About Immigration

By Kate Hudson | Film | November 13, 2019 |

By Kate Hudson | Film | November 13, 2019 |


Look, I love me some dumb Christmas movies, what can I say? That’s why I enthusiastically embraced Holiday in the Wild, the 2019 probably-not-classic-but-fine-enough entry into Netflix’s 2019 holiday season.

What is it about? I’m glad you didn’t ask!

Kate is a rich, kind of bored, housewife in New York whose son is about to head off to college when her husband tells her out of the blue that he’s leaving her. Naturally, Kate had just booked two, non-refundable tickets to Zambia to go on a safari with him, so it’s a solo safari for one, and away we go!

If you think we’re in Hallmark movie territory, you haven’t heard the best part yet. Once at her fancy resort, she meets a brash guy played by Rob Lowe (his name is Derek, but come on, he’s Rob Lowe.) He’s too forward with her, but whatever, she’ll never see him again, right? Wrong.

He’s her bush pilot that’s been hired to take her to her safari. Only twist, on the flight down, they see a baby elephant whose mother has been killed and it’s up to them to save him and make sure he gets to the elephant sanctuary that’s nearish by safely. Now is a good point to mention that Kate is a veterinarian who gave it all up to be a housewife.

They get the elephant safely to the sanctuary and presto, Kate falls in love with Rob Lowe, and she decides to extend her 2-week safari into a 3-month affair. Naturally, since this is a Christmas movie starring Rob Lowe, this movie has a happy ending. After a brief return to New York, Kate comes to understand that she’d rather bless the rains down in Africa and returns, for good, to the elephant sanctuary.

So, it’s all hunky-dory, right?


I have a particular bone to pick with these types of movies were the characters can just up and move to any country they want, for love.

Friends, that’s not how life works. It took me 6-months of planning in order to secure my visa to live in the UK, which was basically impossible to extend after it ran out, so out of the country I went. Additionally, I wasn’t allowed to work over a certain number of hours, and I certainly wasn’t allowed to just show up when I wanted. My visa had a start and end date.

Here’s the deal—Americans are allotted up to 90-days for a tourist visa per calendar year, which Dr. Kate most certainly maxed out on her first trip that got extended.

That means the most Kate could have stayed once she was back, was for 90 days, for the entire year. So she basically had to peace out by April for the rest of the year to return the following year. Hardly the best recipe for a romance with Rob Lowe, right?!

This is all moot because she is required to get a business visa in order to volunteer at the elephant sanctuary (btw—she was technically breaking the agreement for her tourist visa by volunteering the first time.)

Presumably, Kate came back for good (take that!) so she would need to have applied for a work permit, which must be granted before she entered into the country. Keep in mind, she was only back in New York for about two weeks.

In 2017, Zambia tightened their regulations on employment permits:

Foreign workers are likely to receive Employment Permits with shorter validity periods and companies will be expected to help train local workers. Authorities have also increased documentation requirements and have indicated they will conduct more frequent audits.

More importantly, this is the level of documentation required in order to even apply for a work permit:

Employment Permit applications will require extensive documentation, including a completed application form; letter saying how long the employee will be working in the country; employment contract; police clearance certificate; registration with relevant professional body (if applicable); certification of academic and vocational qualifications; a copy of marriage and birth certificates (if available); passport information; two passport photos; relevant corporate documents, including a certificate of share capital and a list of directors; copy of employer’s succession plan; the certificate of incorporation; and copies of press advertisements demonstrating compliance with labor market testing requirements. Mining, construction and engineering companies must provide an additional letter with information about the project on which the foreign employee will be working, the value of the project and a copy of the letter of award, including specifications on a completion date.

The point being, if Kate was granted a permit (which, in my opinion, is likely because she’s a highly trained professional who presumably is not seeking compensation, thus, not taking employment from Zambians) it would still have taken her well over two weeks in order to get the paperwork together, and in addition, there would be no way it was a surprise to Rob Lowe’s character because he was closely involved with the operations of the sanctuary, and probably would have been required to write a letter to the Zambian government, himself.

If only it were as easy in real life, as in the movies, to move to another country for love (and elephants).

Anyway, it was good to see Kristen Davis in something. I really enjoyed her as Brooke in Melrose Place, so if you’re looking for a movie about rehabilitating elephants that also has an extremely unrealistic portrayal of the immigration process of Zambia, this is your movie.

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Kate is a staff contributor. You can follow her on Twitter.

Header Image Source: Netflix