2 thoughts on “‘The Closing of the American Mind:’ Denying Visas to Foreign Intellectuals – Tikun Olam תיקון עולם إصلاح العالم
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  1. This is the second incident of a Bolivian being denied entry I’ve heard in two days:

    LA PAZ— President Evo Morales criticized Washington on Thursday for barring Bolivian Senator Leonilda Zurita from entering the United States over unfounded suspicions of terrorism.


    Their problem isn’t with terrorism, its with Socialism. Evo Morales is probably on the same Pat Robertson list as Hugo Chavez.

  2. I think there is a consensus that the process for getting a visa imprinted on your passport is horrific (Note I’m separating the process to obtain an approval for a visa such as in the case of H1B temporary worker visa). Here are the three experiences I’ve had.
    1999, 2001 Chennai Consulate for F1 and later H1B visas. I live 20 hours away from Chennai by road. So I had to prepare all the application documents and travel 20 hours to Chennai. I had a room in a hotel close to the airport. The hotel knew the process for getting an appointment so they woke me and my family at 4 AM. I got in line at 4AM and my family gave me some water. Every hour somebody from my family would come back from the hotel and give me a little water while I stood in line. Just before I made it into through the embassy doors, my family made me drink up because they knew I wouldn’t get any water for the next two hours while I stood in an outdoor cattle shed of sorts within the embassy walls. Also remember there is no way to unload for 6 hours from when im in line until 10AM when I made it through to an indoor cattle shed (shelter from the rain and sweet AC) within the embassy where you get a token number and access to toilet facilities. God was I glad I could unload. Once I get in at 10AM, its another two hours to make it through to the interview counter where even before 911, the semi educated “diplomat” got a chance to badger me. Keep in mind that I’ve interacted with about 10 employees so far through out the cattle drive. However since I came in close proximity to these people they were locally hired employees (In an American consulate the closes the local populace can come to an American employee is through 6” bullet proof glass places 3 feet away behind a barricade). When waiting for my interview, I can hear other people being badgered. Again im not kidding when I mean badgered. The guy in front of me was a Phd student from Tamil Nadu with a thick Tamil accent. The person interviewing him was not just rude but mean in that she tried to imitate his accent and said “I can’t understand you. Why do you speak like this. This accent is ridiculous”. She finally did deny him his visa, im not sure for what reason, but im sure the reason is less important than the abuse and insult that he took in the process of being denied. I finally got my interview and fortunately I speak English without an accent so it was good. Ofcourse I had to come back at 4PM and stand in line for another 2 hours to get my passport back.
    2007 Mumbai. I had to come to India. I didn’t at that time require a visa because my Greencard (485) was approved. I could come back to the United States with a travel document in lieu of a visa. However it takes INS over 5 months (the posted timeframe is 3 months) to give you a travel permit with a 12 month validity. I took the INS at their word and applied for a renewal of my Travel Permit 4 months before the expiration of my existing travel document and my departure date. Lo and Behold 2 weeks (3.5 months after I applied) my departure I had no travel document. Lucky for me, I had asked my company to extend my H1B so I could go to India and get the Visa stamped on my passport. Here is what it took for me get my visa stamped.
    The only consulate with appointment dates in the 5 weeks I was in India was Mumbai. In order to get an already approved visa stamped this is what it takes. I had FedEx over 150 pages of documents (copies of every page of my passport, Application forms, a folder describing my company and its revenues etc etc) to my cousin. He then had to
    travel 6 hours to a city (The US embassy does not accept online payment and doesn’t accept dollars. The fee had to be paid in rupees. Does the US embassy not trust their own currency??) where the US Embassy had a designated bank where he could pay the $100 documentation fee (In addition to the $5000 that it took to get the visa approved in the US) and obtain a receipt. He then had to scan and email me the receipt which I had to use to make a stamping appointment at the Mumbai Consulate. After which I had to send him PDFs of the appointment that he could print and create an application packet. At this time the Mumbai consulate didn’t accept documents by mail. Somebody had to physically go and drop off the application packet 5 business days in advance. I had to find a friend who had relatives in Mumbai who could travel 2 hours to drop off the application packet. My cousin couriered over the documents to my friends relatibves who them took a 2 hour (each way) trip to the designated Indian office (not the locals are not allowed near the consulate) to drop off my application packet. I then had to pay a fee to the designated office so I had a place to sit (instead of standing 4 hours in the hot sun) waiting for my appointment. The office bussed me to the consulate at the designated time and I went in OK (only because I paid extra for the convenience). The appointment was quick over in 10 mins and I was back in the office where I had to wait for 8 hours to get my passport back. The last part involved standing in line for 3hours to get my passport back.
    Lesson any US visa stamping or travel letter takes about 6 months. This means if you have a travel permit valid for 12 months, you better apply for a renewal 6 months in advance. If the INS keeps to its deadline (they sometimes do) you will have two travel permits with a 3 month overlap. As soon as you get it its better to plan on applying for a renewal because of the length of time it takes. Unfortunately it means a cost of approximately $800 every 9 months (for your travel permit and work permit which the INS keeps separate for some reason)
    Given all this I cant see anybody having a reason to complain about an Indian Visa. Normally India practices reciprocity in most diplomatic processes, however I cant think of any / many Americans who will take so much humiliation to travel to a foreign country. Its just that India needs the American tourist / business person than America needs Indian tourist / brains. But that’s life 

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