Applying for a US Visa

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.

Embassy 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.


0 thoughts on “Applying for a US Visa

  1. Yeah it’s true. I don’t know the exact facts but after 9/11 the standards to applying for a US visa seem to have gotten interrogative and difficult… Due to this I see more Indians applying to study in Australia and the UK rather than the US because they just don’t want to deal with all the hoops they have to jump through.. its a pity really. I am an Indian born American. And also obtained my dual citizenship to make it easy travelling between India and the US. It makes my life a whoooole lot easier. also when it comes to work I don’t have to bother with a work visa since i have dual citizenship. I feel really lucky. It’s sad that in this day and age same sex couples have to deal with so much shit. I hope things get better soon..

  2. yikes, what a complicated process! two of the postdocs in our lab have to reapply for student visas this year… now i can see why they were not thrilled about having to do so.

  3. Hi Chris – first – thank you for the friend acceptance, it’s great to have you as one of mine.Your post – Lol that form about whether your planning terrorist activities etc !!! Lol Someone got overpaid to think up those questions ! I’m surprised they didn’t also ask ‘If you ‘do’ intend toengage in terrorist activities please give full details including dates. Lol Do you know, I’ve seen Tawn’s name a few times and wondered who it was. Now I know. Hope everything goes well with the ‘procedure’.

  4. yeah true… they need cheap labours yet so many obstacles to enter the country… or mainly because of 911 i must say >< my visa also had expired… not going to apply until i have completed my study! because it’s hard to get 10yrs visa outside of my home country

  5. What you mention is the “light” process for a visitor visa. Try the additional paperwork and hoops to go through for student and work visas! Plus if the applicant’s name matches that of someone who is in their criminal database you need to go through a background check which can take between 3 to 4 months (which makes it really tight to get a student on time).

  6. Yep, it is annoyingly cumbersome and lengthy… but you know what the worst part is? The decision to give the visa depends totally on the mood of the consular and your face value! You might recollect how my first application got denied because the consular just didn’t think that I “qualified to travel” because I was a student… while the second time (merely two weeks later), the consular who interviewed me was in a good mood and gave me a 10 year visa without any hesitation. Why I say ‘on the mood’ and ‘face value’ is because, both the times, the consulars asked me almost the same questions and both the time, they didn’t even ask for my documents!

  7. Odd questions… I for one can’t think of a reason why they would be there. If this process does depend on the mood of the interviewer, perhaps you should remind Tawn not to provide any feedback about the interviewer’s attire. (unless it’s positive). I can just see him being interviewed by some 300 lb guy in those skinny jeans.

  8. Years ago, I tried to apply for a US student visa in HK and went through the interview process. It was entirely up to the “mood” of the interviewer who determined if I fit the “profile” and “qualifications”. Most of the interviewers seldom smiled and were very intimidating to say the least. This gave us a very negative impression of the US embassy as a whole. But it is indeed a great advantage if you have an US passport, there’s no need to obtain a visa traveling to most destinations in the world!

  9. Point well made. Once we insulate ourselves from the world, we will surely stagnate and suffocate. People forget that the huge influx of immigrants early in our history gave the country a huge boost in labor and inventiveness… still perking along but needs to continue the importation not of products but of people!

  10. i’ve been through this process with many family members, it’s a real pain. but then again i have to go through a bunch of paperwork with the Consulate just to get into Thailand. bah!

  11. Yes, how well I know all this… every time someone came to visit me, the various loops I had to go through to make it easy for my brothers or sisters. It is worse now.

  12. I was sitting in the US consulate in Malaysia waiting for pages to be added to my passport and was listening to the consular official rejecting or approving visas. Pretty much, if you have money or property in your home country you get approved almost immediately. Those that have shoddy stories or think having 5k will allow them to study for like 2 years are the ones that get rejected.Even then, I think he’ll be okay.

  13. Absolutely ridiculous! So many unnecessary hurdles. We’re going through getting my aunt citizenship as well. Man, I’m lucky to be a citizen. Makes such a difference!

  14. Believe it or not, this seems about equally hard to me, as an American single female, trying to extend her visa for Australia.  India, that was not problem.  Just bribe the right people.  But Australia!~Holy crap man I had to prove I make XYZ amount of money and blah de blah de blah!  It took all damn day!  I really couldn’t believe it!sorry y’all are having to go thru a sucky process that you would not have to go thru if you were male and female marriedthat sux and is very unfair!

  15. I completely understand you yet I see both sides. The process is ridiculous for my friends as well. From the other perspective, there are a lot of Vietnamese students, let’s say at least 5/10 do not return home by “marrying” or have an H1B Visa to work in the U.S. Thus, I think the Department of Visa makes it difficult to go through our lengthy bureaucratic system. And it also depends on the other government such as the Vietnamese government…such a pain because you have to know the right people and certain loopholes within the Vietnamese government to try to keep their own people to return home.

  16. @Ethan – But there’s no problem if they get an H1B and work.  That contributes to American society and if and when they return home they will bring with them the influence of the American way of life and business.  That’s a powerful type of export.  As for fake marriages, of course they happen, but that has nothing to do with the initial application for a non-immigrant visa made at overseas emabssies.  If you get married in the US you have to apply for residency and citizenship there in the US and have to go through an interview process there.@And_I_love – Several Aussies have explained that their government’s toughness towards Americans is a direct response to post 9/11 changes in US immigration policy towards Aussies.

  17. @gweirdo – Yes, there’s a lot to be said for the benefits of dual citizenship, isn’t there?@kunhuo42 – Student visas are even more challenging than visitor visas.  You have to demonstrate why the particular field of study would be useful for you to have back in your home country.@Chatamanda – Yep, that’s who Tawn is. =D@lcfu – Yeah, without a full-time job applying can be much harder.@TheLatinObserver – Oh, I know those are.  My frustration is mostly with the marriage thing more so than the visa process.  More broadly, though, just a belief that making the visa process such a pain only serves to discourage people from coming to the US.@Dezinerdreams – I had you in mind while writing this, Vivek!@CurryPuffy – @kenpcho – As frustrated as I get, I wouldn’t give my US passport up. Except for maybe a Canadian one.  =D@ElusiveWords – Tawn’s great at making people feel nice so I’m sure the interviewer will have a good experience.@murisopsis – And not just early in our history.  We have benefitted from several waves of immigration, each of which has strengthened our country.  The importance is even higher now that there are plenty of other countries vying with the US for economic dominance.  Why go to the US if you can go to (list ten countries here) and live an equally good or better life with less hassle?@yang1815 – Tawn and I were trying to remember your status.  Do you have residency in the US?  A passport yet?@piyapong – Yeah, but the process for getting visas for Thailand is a relative cakewalk.  I’ve been doing it for five years! @secade – Of course “immigration” is a hot button issue, mostly for those who know nothing about it except what they learn on Fox.@TheCheshireGrins – Actually, I’m sure that Tawn’s having had three previous US visas will definitely help his case.@Roadlesstaken – Interestingly, that’s a fact that most gay people in the US don’t realize, either.  They assume that since we’re married we can immigrate.  It’s as if they have never heard of the Defense of Marriage Act.@ZSA_MD – All the more reason to go there, isn’t it?@LostSock21 – I suspect he will be, too, but I’m frustrated that as a married couple we don’t get the same benefits that my heterosexual friends in the same situation would get.@jandsschultz – And not just the government but the people, too.@Renatojr3 – Gosh, and considering that we were an imperial power there you would think we’d give our former subjects some special benefits.  Ouch…@icebladz – Thanks.

  18. I hate the Embassy. They treat people who went to apply visa like trash. When someone asked reasons why they got denied, they just sometimes walked away. If this happened in America…that rude officer will get in trouble for sure. Of all the money people spent there and so many denies…I think the embassy makes pretty good income there.

  19. @christao408 – that’s very interesting given that I arrived there mid feb 02, had a little trouble getting in, and then went thru hell to renew my visa 6 months later.  basically, I had to bribe the guy with money.  it was not a spoken deal, he just took a lot of extra money, much more then it should of cost, and then he said ‘bye’ to me and called up the next person.  It sucked, but I couldn’t entertain the possibility of not getting my visa renewed right then given that I didn’t even have enough money to fly home right then lol!I had never heard your theory before, very interesting.  most people are pretty glad to get the yanks on their soil because as a group we tend to spend more money there.

  20. True. It takes a lot of work to get a US visa. Pfft! This reminds me that I have to get a new one now. T____T@LostSock21 – Hm, I beg to disagree. My friend’s super rich and she can go to any country she asks…well, except for the US because they kept on denying her visa. It was really weird because her answers seem plausible (from the way she told me) enough to get her a pass.

  21. @icesoul_09 –  Money is only part of it. You also need to show that you have a compelling reason to return and not illegally immigrate. That’s what they have a fear of. When I get Visas, once they see that I have money in the bank, medical insurance, and a house they simply stop asking questions and approve me.

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