Tawn’s 10-year visitor visa to the United States expired in January so before our next trip back he needs to apply for a new visa. This process is really cumbersome and I thought I would share it with you because (for those of you who are American citizens) you should appreciate just how many hurdles there are to entering the country legally.
The most important thing is this: even though we are legally married, because we are a same-sex couple our marriage is not recognized by the Federal government. In other words, were we a different-sex couple I would be able to sponsor Tawn’s visa or residency in the US. In this case, should the US government find out that Tawn is married, they could deny him a visitor’s visa on the grounds that he might intend to stay illegally. Nuts, isn’t it? What was that bit in the Declaration of Independence? “We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal.” Oh, right… we didn’t mean equal, equal.
To get your US visitor visa, you need to complete two online forms. The first one is comprehensive but not too unusual: name, address, employment, when are you traveling, who are you visiting, how are you paying for it, have you ever had a US visa before, etc.
There is a section on this first form, though, that is hilarious. Six yes/no questions including “Do you seek to enter the United States to engage in export control violations, subversive or terrorist activities, or any other unlawful purpose? Are you a member or representative of a terrorist organization as currently designated by the U.S. Secretary of State? Have you ever participated in persecutions directed by the Nazi government of Germany; or have you ever participated in genocide?” This must be some kind of an intelligence test because anyone who answers yes to that question must be stupid.
Oh, wait! Below those questions it says, “While a YES answer does not automatically signify ineligibility for a visa, if you answered YES you may be required to personally appear before a consular officer.” Oh, whew! At least the Nazis and terrorists still have a chance to go to Disneyland.
The second form, a supplemental one, gets into crazy amounts of detail. Each country you have visited over the last ten years and the year of each visit. Detailed information about two previous employers including address, phone number and exact dates of employment. Detailed information about all schools you have attended including address, phone number and exact dates of study. All professional, social and charitable organizations to which you have contributed, are a member, or have been involved. Any previous military service. Any specialized skills or training including firearms, nuclear, biological or explosives. Exact itinerary of trip including contact information for each destination.
Beyond the forms, Tawn has to pay a $131 application fee (non-refundable) and has to purchase a PIN number to use to make an appointment online. These fees are paid at the Thai post office, interestingly enough.
After making an appointment he will go to the US embassy, submit all the forms and documentation and then conduct an interview with a consular official. During this interview he needs to demonstrate his “intent to return to Thailand”. The government does not require any particulars here, only that the burden is on the applicant to demonstrate that he or she won’t overstay his or her visa.
Tawn has a strong case to make: full time employment from a global firm for five years, ownership of property, long-term financial investments, and the only child of two retiree parents. Add to that a demonstrated history of more than ten years of global travel in which he has consistently returned to Thailand and I think his chances are pretty good.
I want to stress that I am not disparaging the Department of State and its visa application processes. I just think that US citizens need to appreciate the hoops through which potential visitors and students must go through in order to come to the US. And if anyone has any questions as to why the US is starting to slip from its number-one perch in the world, this might be part of it!
Why are we discouraging people to come here? We need more fans, more students, more people who will absorb what is great about America and then go back home and spread the news. Instead, we’re telling people they aren’t welcome. And you know what? There’s plenty of other places for them to go. Our loss.