My family has been working on a visa for a friend to come visit us in the United States. It’s felt like the longest 2 years of everyone’s lives. I had no idea how broken our visa and immigration system ones until we tried to invite a family friend with a bad passport on vacation to America.
Sure the pandemic distended wait times into bulging impossible monstrosities, we pushed simple state department work into an impossible task. But it’s not just the broken bureaucracy at play. It’s a system so broken by it’s own disdain and lack of resourcing, your only hope is the grace of God.
If you tried to arrange a tourist visa for someone from the global south you’d find the next available appointment for a tourist visa was three years down the road. And this was after the borders opened up after the pandemic got to be too much trouble. It only got worse from there. I quickly become shocked at how impossible it is to travel to America if you aren’t on a Schengen passport from Europe.
I’ve been working on this seemingly intractable problem for well over two years. We are on our second embassy appointment. The first visit was in Frankfurt in March where it was immediately turned down without the officer even looking at the paperwork. Thousands of dollars and endless time lost to a random bureaucrat in thirty seconds.
And you aren’t even allowed to ask them to take another look as they could ban you on the spot. I cried I was so humiliated after seeing that first refusal. How could America be so broken? We did everything right and it didn’t matter. Kafkaesque doesn’t begin to describe it.
Apparently the American state department treats a visa like a Rabbi handling a conversion. It took another 10 months to schedule a follow up appointment in Prague. Our friend’s home embassy has a three year wait so we’ve been going to European embassies to avoid needing to pay a bribe for an appointment in his home country. Legal immigration is much harder than illegal immigration.
So we planned a trip to Prague. And now the appointment is tomorrow. And I’m terrified. I’m despondent. I’ve done everything right and I have no idea if we will succeed. And it’s not even a visa for me. I can’t imagine how they feel. To be treated as if you are a criminal when all you want to do is visit friends and spend money in a other country.
I’m almost embarrassed how invested I’ve become in making this work but I will not allow myself to be beaten by this system. Guests do not deserve this humiliation and America is my house.
Mind you this is for a tourist visa not a work visa or a green card. This is just for coming to enjoy tourism and spend time with friends and family. Tourism is an important part of the American economy. Especially where I live in Montana. The whole world wants to see Yellowstone.
The entire process has been so humiliating for everyone involved. As the sponsor of the visa I filled out a form called an I-134 where I had to prove my net worth, my home ownership, my income, my job and compensation. I accepted personal financial responsibility for them.
This after being instructed that our guest must show strong ties to their home country and a minimum financial independence of their own. They had to show their home ownership, car deeds, work pay stubs & tenure at the company, not to mention guardianship and primary care responsibilities for their grandmother among many other invasive questions. The paranoia of visa overstays has made it so no one can get a tourist visa at all.
All this humiliation be granted the privilege of spending wealth in America as a tourist. It’s beyond insulting. It only gets worse for each step down the line if you want to work or live in America.
If you’ve ever wondered why we don’t have more legal immigrants this is why. Insofar as I can tell there are two ways to get to America. Illegal crossing and you pray. Or tens of thousands of dollars and years of waiting and you pray. Oh and you probably only get to come if you do it illegally. It is a crisis in every sense of the word.
We’ve spent tens of thousands of dollars, weeks of time on the ground in foreign countries and it has gotten us no where.
We’ve also called in everyone type of favor and access we could find. A privilege most lack. Our constituent services office at our Congressional office has been amazing. They submitted a letter asking for a fair review.
If the hundreds of pages of professionally prepared paperwork, the millions of dollars of financial assets and a congressional letter of fair treatment simply aren’t enough, I wouldn’t be too proud to go crying hat in hand to the ambassador to please consider our case. All we want to do is have a family friend granted the freedom to travel. I’ve got no idea where to turn if it isn’t granted.
I’m so anxious and depressed now that the culmination of so many years of work is coming down to one short interview tomorrow, over which we had no control. I’m mess. I’ve let it get to me.
I cannot fathom what else we could do. If millions of dollars of assets, a by the book legal case, multiple political appointees vouching for us and a good faith effort to show our personal responsibility aren’t enough, than what is enough for America?
My fear is nothing will be good enough and I will be despondent in tears tomorrow by 11am. And I pray I have the strength to fight on if it happens. Because I believe in America and I will go to the mat to bring more people to see it’s splendor. Empire’s end won’t happen on my watch without a fight.