As recent as December 2011, Secretary of states, Hillary Clinton, in a video message announced the opening of a virtual consulate for Iranians in order to develop more of a dialogue with Iranian people using new technologies to compensate for the lack of a real embassy in Tehran. No matter how important this step is, no one can ignore the process of applying for the US visa for Iranian applicants is being handled in the real embassies of the US in Dubai and Turkey. Not only is there not much success to connect with Iranian people in these real embassies, that many Iranians leave these embassies filled with frustration and anger and a very strong sense of dislike of the country they had excitingly travelled a long way to get interviewed for its visa in Turkey or Dubai.
Interestingly, the main reason behind this frustration and anger is not the fact that these people are denied a visa to the US, but the way the process of denying the visa happens. First of all, Iranians have to travel to Dubai, Ankara, or some other countries in order to get interviewed to get the US visa. Many of them also should pay some agencies up to $100 to be able to reserve an appointment in consulate, because getting an appointment is highly competitive; they should pay $300 to the embassy for visa interview and the Homeland Security Section; adding the cost of the visa to Dubai as well as plane ticket, and hotel and other expenses shows how costly is this application. An Iranian citizen after spending so much money as well as much time to manage this complicated process reaches the US embassy in which after so much security check point is guided to an interview room, where five to ten Iranian applicants are being interviewed at the same time.
In fact, the previously mentioned frustration comes from the interview room. Most of the time, and of course not always, the visa applicants face with a person who is not that friendly. Then, the interview for the sake of which the person has travelled a long way is very short and most of the time nonsense; in their interview many of the applicants are being rejected for some very silly reasons; I called them silly because the reasons that are being mentioned to deny visa to an Iranian applicant are known to the interviewers before the interview. The frustration, anger, or dislike is not because Iranian applicants are being rejected but because of these very ridiculous, irrational, and contradictory reasoning. This is when all the tiredness of travelling, money spending, time and energy are felt to be in vain and cause the person the frustration. You may ask what are the reasons that I claim to be ridiculous, illogical and contradictory?
Let’s begin with an example that clarifies my point about the process of visa application for Iranians the best. Imagine a company puts some ads on to hire some people. In the first step, people should fill out some forms to give some personal information, including history of their education, previous jobs, the reason for which they are not in that job any more, their race and ethnicity, and so on. Now an African-American has got to the interview step which is the next step; in the interview, however, he is denied the job, because of the color of his skin. He is frustrated to death not because he is denied that job, or racial matters, or anything of this type but the fact that before the interview they knew that his color of skin is black, or they could have said that black people should not apply. This is exactly the story of many Iranians in the US embassies who have denied the visa to the US.
Here I am going to present some of the reasons for the sake of which people were denied the US visa. First I start with a person I talked to recently who wanted to visit a family friend, a physician in Michigan. Last May 2012 was his second try to get a visiting visa to the US.
This is his narration of what happened to him:
The first Interview: In my interview, I was told that because I do not have Schengen visa I am not qualified to enter in the US. I was rejected only for this reason as far as they informed me; So much frustration, because it was something that they knew about me before coming to the consulate; in the forms I had filled, I had listed all my trips and no trip to Europe. Were not they able to tell me this in an email? Of course they were.
With my wife, I found this opportunity to travel to France for two weeks in order to meet the need to have a Schengen visa in my passport.
The Second Interview: After making an appointment, booking hotel, $300 payment to the embassy, I reached to the interview room.
The interviewer asked me to give him the print of my bank account information. I gave it to him. While he was looking at his computer’s monitor and reading the prints, he told me that you have not travelled enough; also you are young (I am almost 40 years old.) He said that I am not qualified. I said I am financially stable, so I should travel when I am young and have energy. I suggested if he needs more prints my bank accounts to be more certain about my financial situation. The interviewer told me that, it is not necessary and he agrees with me that I am financially and professionally stable. It was obvious that he was just looking for an excuse telling me “you are young and have not travelled enough.”
What was the logic in these two interviews? First, the person told he needs to have Schengen visa, then he is told that one Schengen visa is not enough and he needs to travel more; then being told that he is too young. First of all, based on the online forms being filled by applicants the embassy is able to see what the age of the applicant is, how much travelling he has done. No necessity for an interview if they are not met some standards by the embassy; through an email the applicant could be informed of his rejection. One of the reasons to interview a person is to see the proof of his financial situation. A person should be asked to interview for the things that are not possible to be known from far.
Let’s look at some other examples of these types. Another lady in the same day was denied the visa because her husband is in laptop business in Iran, one of the items the US has sanctioned Iran on.
A lady whose husband and kids were in Iran was told to be too young to travel to the US. I am emphasizing on her marital status because many people are being rejected because of being single. When you are single it is highly probable that they reject you by saying that you are single and not married. This is different for student visa while they are not emphasizing on marital status that much.
Most of the reasons for the sake of which the US embassies deny Iranians the visa to the US are in the forms that applicant fill when they are back in Iran before coming to Dubai or Ankara to be interviewed, information like age, list of their international trips, their marital status, the business of their spouse, their work and education history, and so one. I would suggest that the US embassies should act like universities; applicants pay a non-refundable fee for their application; their application is processed; then if they are not qualified they are being rejected and informed through email or mail; and of course some people get to interviews, if there is one; in this step some people are not considered qualified based on their interviews and some get in. Therefore, many Iranian applicants could get informed of their rejection by an email or a phone call without being put in trouble to travel to Dubai or Ankara or other parts of the world to get their rejection news in an interview. It saves people’s time, less expenditure for them, less work force for the US embassies, and also saving the US from some anger and hatred because of its irrational procedure for Iranian visa applicants.