A visa to the States… or not
Here we go, folks. It’s rant time.
I haven't gone to visit the States since I left over three years ago, and to be honest I have no desire to do so now. However, parents do start to miss their children after a time, and as my Thai fiancé and I have both recently finished graduate programs (or rather, she finishes soon), and as I'm finally at a school that gives me Christmas holidays, my dad bought us return tickets to visit them in the States over the holidays. Ok, sure, it'd be nice to see the family and whatnot; sounds fun.
Having returned to the States after a stint abroad in the past, I am already well aware of the hoops I have to pass through, as a citizen, to prove I'm not harboring terrorists and whatnot before returning; it's taken me hours in airports to deal with this before. So, I knew it wouldn't be a cake walk to get my Thai fiancé a visa, but surely it's doable.
Apparently not. We paid the $160 (currently almost 6,000 baht) application fee, I guess to make sure none of the wrong type breach the borders, filled out the comical application (have you, or anyone you know, ever aided in international drug smuggling schemes? -I wish), made the appointment, and showed up bright and early.
Her appointed application officer, according to her and several other applicants I met outside (as a citizen, I'm obviously not allowed to go in the embassy with her), was, let's say, not too keen on his job. Keeping in mind my fiancé is completely fluent in English, and that the only document the officer had at the time was the online application itself, the interview went as thus:
Where are you going? -Savannah, Georgia
Who is this contact person listed on the application? -my fiancé's dad (glances up at her)
Your fiancé... let me see his visa and work permit. -...he's waiting outside, they wouldn't let him in!
How long have you been dating? -over three years.
And you've never travelled abroad together? -well, it's expensive and we both work full time.
Application denied. You can't show his passport OR work permit, you've been dating for years and haven't left the country together, and that's suspicious. -(tries to hand him her folder of evidence) but... (tosses denial slip and slams window shut)
Now, for those of you with a keen sense of... sense... may notice that this gentleman never even offered to look at her paperwork, which contained her working contract as a Thai government officer (a relatively sought-after and respected position here), salary slips, paid return ticket confirmation, and other proof that she has absolutely no intention of eloping to the US and staying there. She tried to offer it just before the officer slammed the window shutter, but alas, no success.
She wasn't the only one with the gentleman who had likely suffered from the bad Thai hooker experience; several others had similar stories. Now, well-riled, I decided to do what any good citizen would do: write a letter to the embassy that would make absolutely no difference. I was very cordial, even kind in my eyes, humbly suggesting that procedure may not have been followed. Shall I quote a bit? Yes, because the response (shockingly, I got a response) was comical.
"I would like to file a formal complaint regarding the Embassy's handling of a recent Non-Immigrant visa application made by my Thai fiancé. While I fully realize the need for strict filtering of visa issuances, and while I also realize that application approval is at the discretion of the Consul Officer, I feel that this particular application was inconsistent with the published guidelines and requirements of the application process.
[brief description of what happened]
My complaint is thus: the Officer never even asked to see the applicant's documents that would have proven her intentions, and my understanding is that the Officer was not in the best of spirits per several other denied applicants I met as I was waiting outside the Embassy.
Keeping in mind that the application documentation does not require my legal documents for an application, although those could easily have been supplied, I feel that the Officer did not follow proper procedure as the applicant's verification documents were not even requested for validation."
Nice, eh? I was rather proud of being nice. Am I wrong in thinking that the officer should at least LOOK at the validating paperwork before denying the application?
Their response, though, was spot-on with US governmental authority. You have the "burden of proof" to "prove" that you don't intend to immigrate to the US (how can you prove anything if the officer won't even look at the documents?), the officer must use his/her discretion in the interest of national security (I feel safer already), do feel free to apply (and pay) again, etc.
Essentially, the lines from Matilda: "I'm big and you're small, I'm right and you're wrong," all copied directly off their website. Good of them to bother replying though; you'd never even get that Stateside.
I can count on two fingers the number of times I've actually been angry since moving to Thailand, and the first was my last 8+ hour stint at Bangkok immigration. At least in Thailand, the government's upfront, basically like, "We're completely full of shit and you're just going to have to deal with it, foreigner."
In the US, it's more "YOU'RE completely full of shit, we're the greatest country on Earth and we'll prove it to you by bombing everyone and denying your visas because we can, HA, HA, HA." Ok, so that's obviously a dramatization, but you get the idea. To quote Walter from The Big Lebowski, "Dude, am I wrong?"
The irony is, I don't even want to visit the States; although it'd be great to see my family, this kind of bureaucratic nonsense is exactly the reason I don't live there anymore. Well, that and the fact that other Americans generally annoy me.
Although this particular officer isn't representative of the whole country, I can't say that I really blame him for his lack of enthusiasm; he's working in an environment full of the reddest of red tape, and what can we really expect the result of that to be?
If the US is so bloody proud of its superior law and order, shouldn't it at least try to bother following it?
Obviously, we'll have to do this whole process over again and hope to get a different officer; the tickets are paid for and the family is all excited for our visit. But, having been known to have a slight temper when dealing with the government, I can say that if they deny her again (and there is absolutely no reason to-she has all the required documentation), the hell with it, we're going to Fiji... somewhere I actually WANT to go.
I hope you enjoyed my blog. If you would like to get in touch or perhaps e-mail me with a question, I would love to hear from you - All the best, Sam Thompson.
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Do people reading these posts actually READ them? There is a difference between fiancee and wife. Tim has said twice that he was already MARRIED (for five years in fact) AND had a kid already. Some posters seem so caught up in their egocentric predicament that they can't relate to another's story even when it's spelled out for them.
By I. Giveup, the library (6th October 2015)
I was in the same situation you're in with my Thai fiancé a few years back. You can do some (or many, many hours of) research online if you'd like, but the reality is that a Thai woman engaged to an American man will NOT, under any circumstances, be given a tourist visa to the US.
Of course the embassy is not going to come out and say this, and will happily collect your fees and conduct a sham interview, but the only way you'll be able to get her to the states is with a Fiancé or Marriage visa, which is more expensive, requires a lot more preparation and documentation, and means you'll have to get married before you go or plan to marry once you arrive in the US.
My fiancé and I had to cancel our trip, change the plane tickets to the next year, and apply for the fiancé visa. I had to fib a bit about our intentions to live together in the US after the visa was granted (we didn't), but that was the only way she was ever going to be approved.
Best of luck to you both.
By Same Boat, Thailand (6th October 2015)
I read with interest some of the reply's to the writer. I myself had a Philippine teacher friend denied by US Immigration and he had all the items that everyone appears to believe are essential. Additionally, I was available as his sponsor to lend credence to his story. Here is my personal bottom line and many won't like it.
Immigration to the United States is a complete joke. Quota systems (they deny this) and national security concerns are so irrelevant when one considers what is happening on the United States southern border at present. Customs and border protection has been instructed to not impede the migration of incoming hoards from Central and South America with this seemingly silly proviso that a citation should be issued with an order to appear in court in the next 30 days for case disposition. All of this is accompanied with a paid for bus ticket to Chicago, Columbus, Phoenix or who knows where as a destination. Don't believe me? Read the news in the last 8 months or so. Border patrol has been given implicit instructions to go "hands off".
My sense is a blatant disregard for the rule of law by the present administration,and additionally the imperative to change the demographics and content of the voting public without the usual red tape and need to somehow impede all those nasty European and Anglo types from entering the States. They don't vote properly and besides, the "south of the border crowd are our kind of people. They come for "love".
Consider my Philippine friend. A registered nurse, a certified Biology teacher with and established track record, an American sponsor, and a brother in the Bay Area. Additionally he has a fat bank account and a contract of employment running till April of 2016. Our kind of tourist? Incorrect. He was given about 7 minutes and asked 5 questions including why do you want to go to the states, although he possessed my personal endorsement for return and attestation of personal character.
Now in the off chance that said Philippine friend decided to disappear into the hinterlands of the US, who would we really rather have; our friend from Ol Mexico or Bolivia who speaks no English, has a 5th grade education and who will end up washing dishes somewhere, or the man from Manila that can hit the ground running. Now I ask you.
I was going to say that something is "rotten in Denmark" but immigration by Danes is not my point exactly, you get my drift.
Let us also consider the visa on arrival countries like Japan. One just drops in for a little holiday on the West Coast and is granted a 6 month stay. How perfectly cozy, yet our Philippine friends, former countrymen of sorts, (like Puerto Rico, Guam etc.) who fought along side our men in the Second World War and who as a general population are probably more educated that the average American, I dare say. and did I mention, they are bilingual, and are as a rule not welcome and must submit to the Visa process. Shameful!
Perhaps there are scattered in the interview process planted "hatchet men" that are designated to provide a requisite number of denials. Who knows. It makes the States look bad or worse than we are already are looked upon and for what?
I love the States. I hate the bureaucrats and the bloated, centralized, big government do nothings that have made us a laughing stock.
Its a disgrace.
By Mike McPherson, Klaeng, Thailand (30th September 2015)
The reply wasn't for you buddy. Relax or as Aaron Rodgers said best R-E-L-A-X. It was for the original poster of the article. Thus the Fiancé or GF part as well as the government employee too. I just read your post and I am sorry that happened to you. Coming from a current AD military man I thank him for his service many years ago. Unfortunately for you though the State Dept. really do not care and probably never will. Again, your situation is unique but I stand firm on believing that many Thais or anyone from developing nations are fairly crooked. Hell, I will even admit that I can only trust a handful of my OWN family member and I grew up in Thailand. Case in point read this article:
This is not even a unique or uncommon situation that I have read about. This man have a life, a business, a child with the woman. She shafted him without batting an eyelash. Needless to say if this woman had a chance to leave her hubby for some Schmo in England for a better life I am certain she would have jumped on it.
Now back to your situation, put on your thinking cap for a second and pretend you are the GOV. Regardless if you stayed in the U.S. or only visiting, if you cannot find a decent job in USA, get proper healthcare, or even manage an income, then what happens? You and your family will become their problem as in they are shelling out SNAP, Section 8, etc. Which is why it takes a long time to get proper visa for your wife and which is why they did not approve her tourist visa. The biggest thing is showing the State Dept representative at the consulate that your wife has a reason to come back to Thailand. Generally that is to show both your liquid and fixed assets that she has a reason to come back. That could be anything in the form of money in your Thai bank account (from my knowledge it has to be in the $20K USD and up range), or a deed to your home that you or your wife owns outright with no lien.
One of the biggest hurdle for me to get my wife immigrated from Honduras (the country doesn't matter as they are trained to do the same processing at the same place before being shipped off overseas to do the approval) to the U.S. was my income. I had to be certain level above the poverty line or her green card would not have been approved. If you need more reference than my own personal experience go here and read what people have to go through for both the K1, IR2, and tourist visas:
Please don't take it the wrong way but many Americans have this ideal of believing that "I am a U.S. Citizen I should be able to do........" attitude. Thus my original post. Again sorry about you missing your Dad's funeral. I had to miss my mom's funeral the exact reversal because I was in combat training and couldn't leave the U.S. to go to Thailand for her funeral so I feel your pain brother.
By Tai, OK (28th September 2015)
Tai in Oklahoma,
I normally wouldn't bother responding, but your reading skills leave something to be desired. I was MARRIED already, recognized already by the Department of State. I had a kid already, with dual citizenship already. A green card/spouse visa for my Thai wife would have taken a long time and a lot of money to apply for, a waste since we were planning only a short, ONE TIME trip back for four weeks to have a military funeral re-done for myself and my WIFE and American daughter during our time of grief. We would have had the round trip tickets bought and paid for before even leaving Thailand. Furthermore, with the lack of full-time teaching at the tertiary level as well as the difficulty of getting health insurance both for myself (serious asthma) and my wife and child would preclude even a pico-second's thought about jumping visa and staying there. A fellow American here hearing of my struggles and others once commented that our Department of State just doesn't seem to get that, despite those shady ones you mention, most Thais I know would not want to leave home here. Some of your "specific claims" would be better supported with references.
By Tim, Thailand (23rd September 2015)
You are silly if you think they just hand out random tourist visas to anyone in a developing country to go to the U.S. First off, if she is your fiancé, you would be better off wait to get married and get her the full resident visa. To anyone that lives in Thailand (coming from a born and raised in Thailand but grew up in the States guy) thinking they can just get a tourist Visa for their GF, Fiance, boo, whatever, I have some tips for you.
1) Tourist visas are generally for wealthy folks. Unless you can show proofs that you have assets such as homes, business, or a financial reason why you would want or need to come back to Thailand you are out of luck. INS do not care who you are they only care about propper documentations.
2) "Working contract as a Thai government officer (a relatively sought-after and respected position here)" Let me guess she makes around $35k/month or so (roughly $1000) ? Think about that for a minute. It is respectable in Thailand yes. But she can wash dishes in the States for $1500 a month which up her salary by 50% hence that is the reason why people from developing country come to the U.S. on whatever visas and never leave. Case in point one of my parent's friend been living in the States for over 8 years on a student visa that expired 6 years ago.
3) One of the more important one. Thais are some shady folks. Many of the visa requesting folks often lie to the INS agents. You and your fiancé may have a real relationship but there are a lot of people in Thailand that either married on contracts so they can get a visa and defect or the Thai women will bamboozled an American Gringo to bring her to the States and then just completely disappears.
By Tai, Oklahoma (22nd September 2015)
When my father died three years ago, I missed the funeral. I went back a month later to start the estate business by myself since I have no siblings. I couldn't bring myself to go by the cemetery by myself, but I knew I'd make a second trip back later the same year.
Id been MARRIED six years and had a five-year-old who has dual citizenship. She is actually named after my father (girl's version of his name). Dad was a Korean War Vet. I wanted to take my wife and daughter to be with me as the VFW redid the flag folding ceremony and give the flag to my daughter. A friend had sent me a picture of his service foot stone which had already been place.
I tried applying online for a simple 4-wk tourist visa for the second trip. I don't plan on going back to the US to live; my wife and daughter will live their lives here in my wife's homeland too. I thought it would be the ONE TIME I could take them back with me.
The decision tree writers/programmers for the online visa application (farmed out to people who couldn't think creatively so save their own lives) set up the interactive application form so once it found out you were married, it shunted you off to a spouse visa application, which would take longer to obtain. Also, the steps outlined on the consulate website noted the "tap bien ban" was NOT enough prove my wife was from one of the 15 northern provinces in order to do her interview at the consulate. What was proof enough? A consular officer responded in email: Unfortunately we cannot answer your question. Please contact the embassy in Bangkok.
I wrote the consul-general and ambassador, including the photo of Dad's service stone and the fact that he was a federal employee for 30 years. Never got an answer.
I'm thinking of sending one of the current embassy or consulate bigwigs the folded service flag from his casket and asking them to help my get a special case made for it. The least they can do, I think.
By Tim, Thailand (22nd September 2015)
I am sure your $160 visa application fee is nonrefundable so maybe it's just an easy way for the US government to generate some extra income to pay off their trillions of dollars in debt.
By Thomas, Thailand (19th September 2015)
Considering how much illegal immigration we have in the US, you'd think they would have been appreciative of you actually following procedures, rather than making a stealthy desert crossing thru Arizona....
By Bob, Phuket (7th September 2015)
When my husband went to the US embassy for the interview, the only documents they looked at were my work passport and letter from employer here in Thailand (I'm American; he's Thai). I gave him my passport to take with him before he went into the embassy. No problem.
First time around, 4 years ago, we were engaged but I was still finishing grad school in the US- denied. Making for a very sad Christmas holiday.
Sorry this happened to you.
By Jane, Bangkok (1st September 2015)
I feel your pain as my wife has been denied twice now. First time we were engaged and she had a steady job and no criminal record and all the paperwork needed plus letters from her job and respected members of the community. She was asked 4 questions:
1.) Why are you going to the USA (visit my fiancee's family)
2.) Have you worked in a bar ever (nope)
3.) How long have you known each other (2 years)
4.) Do you own any property in Thailand (nope)
Then she was told "You have no strong ties to Thailand" and the interview was over. He never looked at any of the paperwork either! I complained and nothing was changed
Now we are married and she has been out of the kingdom (Japan and Korea) for travel and now owns a business she even has a few college courses under her belt too. I even got a few powerful family members to write letters (one is a judge and another is a mayor) and vouch for her.
Yet again second verse same as the first. Was told no close ties to the country and lack of home ownership. And yet again they never looked at the paperwork or proof!
I'm over it as is my wife. My family visited here instead and we figure the only way getting a visa might be possible is if we apply outside of Thailand or sneak across the Mexican border (ha ha ha).
Best of luck to you with the visa.
By JLR, Thailand (1st September 2015)
Start small... Take the missus to Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore and Macau, etc before you apply for the big one. This is what I did and I think that's what secured the UK visa for us.
Getting these visas are notoriously difficult to get the first time. I'll bet your application succeeds the second time around.
In the UK they actually are very helpful and they give you the reasons, if you get refused. It may be worth asking your embassy why they application was refused so you can get it right the second time.
Don't give up and don't lose heart.
By Mark Newman, Thailand (1st September 2015)
Hi Sam. Sorry to hear about your troubles. I know exactly how stressful these visa application situations are - especially when you have family that have footed the travel expenses and are also dying to see you again. It's a HUGE disappointment for everyone concerned.
Difficult though it is to accept, these embassy interviewers have the power of God. They can wreck your plans with the dismissive wave of a hand or the stroke of a pen. But I agree totally with what you say - all we want to see as the applicant, is the correct procedure being followed and to know that our application has been treated both professionally and fairly.
I wrote a similar blog to this one after my experience at the Dutch Embassy in Bangkok. four years ago
Touch wood, my wife has never been refused a visa for anywhere - but we've certainly had our embassy moments. Who hasn't?
By Philip, Samut Prakarn (1st September 2015)