US: Highly questionable visa policy: a different view

Randy Black writes: I very much appreciate the emotion in Istvan Simon’s post. Clearly, he is speaking from deep in his heart regarding his strong desire see the young artist get this opportunity to study with Mr. Parkening. Further, Mr. Haupt’s comment in a separate post about the reasons for the denial<< he was told that since he was enrolled in a college in Moscow there was no need for him to study in the US, that his true purpose was obviously to immigrate illegally, visa denied…> has a hollow sound to it. The law requires a written reason for the denial and the one that Mr. Haupt describes does not fall into any category on the pre-printed forms that are handed to applicants. I advise Mr. Haupt to get a copy of the denial form, correct the deficiency, and reapply. Further, Mr. Haupt’s comment about Parkening writing to the Ambassador simply does not make sense. The State Department website is clear that such efforts are counterproductive.
I have been in a similar position as was Mr. Haupt. I have watched a deserving person be turned down and felt the similar frustrations that Mr. Simon and Mr. Haupt describe. But I didn’t have time to feel sorry for myself or the applicant, nor to complain about being an American, or yell at the embassy folks, all things that seemed counterproductive, so I quickly moved on. I read the reason that the applicant who was turned down was given, regrouped, corrected the deficiency and watched that applicant successfully complete the process a few days later.
That said, this is not about censorship. This is not about the Bush Administration. This is not about illegal immigration or even Mr. Simon’s service at the LL National Labs. It is about fulfilling the basic requirements of the laws that have been on the books for decades, and filling out an application properly. Little else in this discussion is relevant.
I have followed the issue of visa processing from a personal and a business viewpoint for a decade. I’ve seen the process from both sides of the glass. For nearly a year, I ate lunch at the US Embassy in Moscow on a weekly basis. (It was the only place to get a Taco Salad in Moscow in those days! You had to be invited and go though a ton of security and metal detectors, but boy was it worth it. Getting to watch our embassy folks do their duty from their side of the glass was such a treat. The experience made me even more proud of our nation and grateful for our embassy employees. The thousand or so people at the US Embassy in Russia do great job.)
I socialized after hours with the same people, played tennis with them on weekends, sailed, hiked, and all the rest with them. I watched the process from the US side of the glass interview window in the visa section, listened to the American side’s questions and the Russian answers, asked my own questions as to the whys and what ifs of the process, marveled at the fact that so few Americans operate essentially to the benefit of so many Russians who they will never see again. Most of our embassy folks do the job professionally, cheerfully and efficiently. A few do not. They do not last. In fact, most of them do not last. It’s a crappy job. You are faced with a seemingly never ending line of Russians wanting to visit the USA. And you know everyday that at least one third are not being truthful about their intentions of returning. Yet you still give four out of five what they want… a visa.
The fact that young Nikita was denied is not the earth shaking event that Mr. Simon and Mr. Haupt would have us believe. In all likelihood, the young man will reapply at a future date and taking into account the written reasons for the initial denial that he was provided, he will be successful.
Putting all emotions aside, one has  to make a pretty significant mistake to warrant a denial of a visa. The historical record shows that 80% (four out of five) of Russian applicants are successful on the first try to obtain a visa to the USA.
Mr. Simon was not there, nor was I. But having seen it from both sides of the glass, I can pretty much figure out what likely went wrong. I am willing to bet that the boy’s paperwork did not include a specific entry and exit date. Just having an invitation that says, “Come during July,” does not cut the mustard. It might have been something as simple as him not having a round trip plane ticket in hand, or financial evidence of his ability to fund his needs during the trip. My advice is to ask the young artist for a copy of the reason for denial that he was handed at the interview and rectify the error and reapply. It may be that simple. Good luck.
One last thing: Here is the exact wording from the State Department website that WAISers should be aware of if getting involved in one of these matters:

The United States is an open society. Unlike many other countries, the United States does not impose internal controls on most visitors, such as registration with local authorities. In order to enjoy the privilege of unencumbered travel in the United States, aliens have a responsibility to prove they are going to return abroad before a visitor or student visa is issued. Our immigration law requires consular officers to view every visa applicant as an intending immigrant until the applicant proves otherwise.


Section 214(b) is part of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). It states:

Every alien shall be presumed to be an immigrant until he establishes to the satisfaction of the consular officer, at the time of application for admission, that he is entitled to a nonimmigrant status...

To qualify for a visitor or student visa, an applicant must meet the requirements of sections 101(a)(15)(B) or (F) of the INA respectively. Failure to do so will result in a refusal of a visa under INA 214(b). The most frequent basis for such a refusal concerns the requirement that the prospective visitor or student possess a residence abroad he/she has no intention of abandoning. Applicants prove the existence of such residence by demonstrating that they have ties abroad that would compel them to leave the U.S. at the end of the temporary stay. The law places this burden of proof on the applicant.

Our consular officers have a difficult job. They must decide in a very short time if someone is qualified to receive a temporary visa. Most cases are decided after a brief interview and review of whatever evidence of ties an applicant presents.

Your comments are invited. Read the home page of the World Association of International Studies (WAIS) by simply double-clicking on: Mail to Ronald Hilton, Hoover Institution, Stanford, CA 94305-6010. Please inform us of any change of e-mail address.

Ronald Hilton 2004


last updated: November 19, 2004