Begin Guest Post by Doc Wayne…
Tourist Visa for the United States? Not So Fast.
While the world’s eyes are focused on illegal immigration problems in many countries, I’d like to draw your attention to the unfair and arbitrary practices of the U.S. State Department in regard to processing visa applications for legitimate tourists. Who gets a visa and who doesn’t? Government bureaucracy, hysteria, and lack of common sense seem to rule the day.
I am a retired U.S. military officer living in Thailand with my girlfriend of 10 years. I thought it would be nice to take her for a couple of weeks to meet my family and see a little bit of the country. Like most people in Thailand, I was aware of the “visa assistance” services offered by travel agencies for thousands of baht ( but exactly what services they provide that I couldn’t do was unclear).
The online instructions from the web page are are short and simple – complete the online application, pay $160 fee and then schedule an interview. Contrary to rumors and online anecdotal stories, there are no listed requirements as to money in the bank, family relationships, property ownership, English fluency, proof of airline tickets or anything else. The interview process is used to determine whether the applicant can reasonably be expected to abide by the visa and return to Thailand upon expiration. Does the applicant have strong family / community ties in Thailand, financial incentives to return to Thailand, a job or business in Thailand? Is the applicant planning to try to work in the U.S. or get married in the U.S. or stay for whatever reason?
We gathered about 20 pages of documents that would support every reasonable question that might come up in the interview. At the appointed time we showed up at the Embassy and I was told I could not go inside with my girlfriend. So a shy, quiet Thai girl who is not really fluent in English is ushered into a totally foreign place and immediately fingerprinted and then asked to wait for the interview. When called to an interview window, the Embassy worker tried speaking Thai, but my girlfriend could not understand her and the employee refused to speak English. The interview consisted of about 4 questions in 5 minutes. At no time did the employee ask for any documentation of our relationship, her bank account, her family, or anything else. Then my girlfriend was handed a typed paper (in English) that said she was denied a visa because she didn’t meet the “requirements” and she was asked to leave.
What the hell just happened?
Was it because the staff employee just didn’t like the color of lipstick my girlfriend had on or her perfume or was just in a bad mood. It surely didn’t have anything to do with the “requirements” because there are no published requirements and she never asked to see any documentation that would have proved she did meet any requirements. The denial form said there is no appeal of the visa decision, so neither she nor I could get any idea of what “requirements” we failed to meet.
Let’s Summarize This Event
1. First I was charged $160 just to apply for the visa. Why not charge a reasonable fee for the application and then an additional fee for the visa itself, if granted. The Embassy is collecting unreasonable fees, knowing that a large percentage of the visa applications will be denied but the government keeps the money.
2. Why are fingerprints taken just because an applicant walked through the doors? Are they really doing fingerprint database matching in the 5 minutes between entry and interview? So now the U.S. government has a file of thousands of ordinary Thai citizens who have done nothing wrong, other than ask to visit the U.S. Wouldn’t it be less intrusive and more cost effective to only fingerprint applicants who have been tentatively approved for a visa and then keeping better track of those visitors once they enter the United States?
3. “Didn’t meet the requirements”. How hard would it be to simply list a few suggested documents and then actually take the time to look at the paperwork?
4. “Visa request denied, no appeal” Why is the applicant not allowed to know why they were denied a visa? Paper says she can apply again, but without some idea of what to change or add or improve, who is going to apply again and waste their time and money? Maybe that is the idea. This is just a big bureaucracy that made up their own rules and has no appreciation for customer service.
5. Actual interview.
- Why and where do you want to go in the United States? Holiday with boyfriend for 2 weeks in Texas.
- How long have you known your boyfriend? 10 years.
- Do you have a job? Yes.
- How much do you make? 30,000 Thai baht per month.
How can anyone interpret these answers as an indication she will not abide by the visa rules and try to stay in the U.S.? She had a letter of financial guarantee from me, home ownership papers, business license, family photos, bank books, etc. If the interviewer has any doubts, shouldn’t the applicant get a chance to at least explain? Or does it boil down to the fact that we didn’t employ the services of a local fixer?
While President Trump is seeking enhanced screening for visa applicants from some countries, an applicant from a friendly country with all the right answers (if asked) can’t get more than 5 minutes for an interview. A perfect example of an embassy bureaucrat who doesn’t have to answer to anyone, just doing her job!
…End of Guest Post
Thoughts from Mark Blackard
I’d like to thank Doc Wayne for the guest post. It’s yet another case of the U.S. State Department robbing the expat community and their family members of money, time, and dignity.
The U.S. State Department is an agency of people being paid way too much, riding too many benefits, and receiving fat, juicy entitlements just because they are working OCONUS.
Dear State Department Employees:
Fine. Make your money and live your easy lifestyle abroad. Rob the taxpayers for shit you don’t deserve. I don’t care. That’s on your own conscience. What I do care about is your fucked-up attitude we citizens have to endure when forced to deal with you.
Here’s an article I wrote a while back after a trip to the embassy pissed me off: