Tuesday, August 08, 2006

US visa problem: completely outrageous

Today's most popular story from the TVNET news (by the number of comments it received): US visa interview ends with humiliating denial.

A music teacher from Talsi and four of her students were invited to give a sequence of concerts in US, to Latvian-American communities. On June 28, they went to US embassy in Riga for visa interviews. All of them were denied visas. The most outrageous aspect is that one of the students was not even asked a single question! The consular official just took her fingerprints, looked at her application form and denied the visa!

Supposedly, the official was concerned about them not returning to Latvia after their visit. This is a complete nonsense. Latvian American organizations have invited speakers and arts performers from Latvia many times over the last 15 years and I do not know of any instances when a person invited by a major Latvian American organization has not returned to Latvia.

Now, this is not the only case when a Latvian has been denied a US visa without a good reason. I know other cases, both among my friends (and friends of friends) and among people about whom I would read in newspapers. (One newspaper story from 4 years ago: Martins Karsums, the top junior hockey star in Latvia was denied visa when he wanted to play in a junior team in US. Luckily, that did not hurt his hockey career too much and he was still drafted by NHL in 2005.) What makes this case special (specially outrageous, that is) is the official denying visa without asking a single question. Does he think he can read minds? Or does he deny applications based on his mood?