Tuesday, May 30, 2006

The Deported's Tips on Immigration - Lesson One: Finding and Completing the Visa Application

By way of legal disclaimer, let me just say, up front, that people seeking visas should not take advice from someone who has been deported. Ever! You would think this would be a no-brainer, but considering that there is a warning on a baby stroller that reads, "Remove child before folding," I'm not taking anything for granted. Live and learn. Live and learn.

After copying my visa application packet for the fourteenth-gazillion time, it hit me that I know very little about the actual process for those seeking visas to enter the US. Like the good global citizen that I aspire to be, I tore myself away from the disaster I know as my own immigration crisis to check out the differences between the US visa application and the Belgian one. (The truth is I wasn’t so much interested in the differences, as I was which one was the easiest. Belgium wins - hands down!)

To find the Belgian visa application, go to www.diplobel.us and click on "traveling to Belgium" and walk through the drop-down menus. The whole process will take less than 10 minutes, even for those whose children are beside them, nicely folded in their strollers.

To find the US visa application, go to www.unitedstatesvisa.gov, click on "what is a visa", then click on "visa applications forms." Now, guess as to which of the 16 different forms you should complete. Alternatively, you can click on "nonimmigrant visas" or "immigrant visas", both sites which will redirect you to the website for the US Secretary of State. Or, you can click on "visa classifications and categories," and be redirected to the Immigration and Classification Services of the Department of Homeland Security's website. I can't provide a time estimate for the process, as I gave up after 25 minutes. I figured that I could just hire someone from one of the pop-up sites, now infecting my computer, advertising "live and work in the US legally" or "get your US visa today."

The Belgian visa application is 25 questions long, the hardest of which is number 15 - "border of first entry into the territory of the Schengen states" - because it required me to find out what exactly is a Schengen state. Once that problem was solved, the application was fairly straightforward.

Still unsure as to which US visa application should be completed for comparison purposes, I pulled up Form DS-156. It is 41 questions long, not including, of course, the subparts. Following are REAL (i.e., I swear I did not make these up!) questions copied from US Visa Application Form DS-156, to which the applicant is to check either Y or N:

  • 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? (If you are smart enough to know the definition of "genocide", it pretty much stands to reason that you are smart enough to answer "no" to the question. Hell, even if you can't tell the difference between genocide and pesticide, you'd think context clues would kick in. Nazi = no! We call this question a "give-me" or a "freebie.")

My personal favorite is the "are you a member or representative of a terrorist organization as currently designated by the U.S. Secretary of State?" You may be surprised to learn that finding a list of designations on the US Secretary of State's website was almost as easy as finding the correct visa application to download.

Even with a fairly good command of the English language, some decent computer skills, and broadband access, I had trouble locating the "designations" on the Secretary of State's website. My search of the site for "terrorist designations," returned 500 hits, but no list per se.

Not one to give up easily, I returned to the US Secretary of State home page and clicked on "issues & press." Not seeing what I wanted, I clicked on "more" and finally found the heading "counterterrorism." After clicking on "counterterrorism", I went to "releases" and clicked on "terrorist designation list." I then clicked on the link for "foreign terrorist organizations list" and, voila, found the list. It was dated October 11, 2005. Does that make it current?

Seriously, if you are answering “yes” to any of the above questions, someone should be measuring the depth of your gene pool, not processing your application.

On that note, I'm off to offer up my daily sacrifices to the immigration gods!

© 2006 by Cindy Lane. All rights reserved.


Blogger woman wandering said...

I had to link to this ... thanks for the laughter.

The Belgian weather and sundry items of interest ... more rain today, grey skies and 10oC. Small hail storms Monday and Tuesday ... still not legal to work.

Tot ziens.

10:41 AM  
Anonymous V-Grrrl said...

OK--Belgium wins on ease of applying for a Visa.

What about the residency permit?

11:22 AM  
Blogger CISSY said...

Hmmm. So are journalists considered a "terrorist group?"

9:17 PM  

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