I Got my U.S. Visa

I went to American Consulate for Visa interview and (I hate it) leave my fingerprint there. I waited four hours to get my visa, among which, one hour was spent outside the building, in the cold winter wind. I arrived at the gate of the Westgate Building, 1038 Nanjing West Road at around 1:00 PM, waited there in a long line (about 100 people) for one hour. The afternoon session mainly opens to American Chamber of Commerce Corporate Member employees. The morning session is opened for general public. I guess their situation should be much worse. Behind me are employees from Dell, Coca-cola, IBM and Intel…..

The security check for entering the visa section was strict. Mobile phones, electronic devices, bags are all not allowed. I don’t think anybody in the line came without a mobile. I paid 10 RMB to have mine deposited. It seems the American Consulate is an aircraft, floating on the 8th floor of the building.

The visa applicants scheduled for the morning have not been interviewed yet so it is crowded inside the room. I read through all the magazines in the room and learnt some new ideas – it is said pets can help to improve people’s family relationship, health…. After I read everything, I heard my named called in the speaker. It was already 4:30 PM – 3 hours and a half after I got there. Within the three and a half hours, the sentence I heard most frequently was “I am sorry, but according to American laws, I cannot grant you a visa…..” followed by the angry argument and, sometimes, the sound of falling curtain before the applicants.

The lives for employees of AmChamber are much easier. I heard that after 911, visa rejection rate is too high and broke the business of American companies. The American Chamber of Commerce complained seriously so the American Chamber of Commerce Cooperate Business Visa Program emerged. By this program, it is quicker to get visa.

This service, designed in cooperation with the U.S. Embassy, allows qualified member companies of AmCham-China to quickly and conveniently apply for U.S. visas for their Chinese staff and business associates.

I handed in my application on Nov 10 and got the appointment today (one week). For others, it may take up to 2 months for the appointment.

In contrast with the interview process for other applicants, the questions and answers for my interview were concise and quick:

    “Mr. Wang, is this your passport?”

    “Yes.”

    “Would you please put your left index finger on the sensor flat?”

    I did.

    “Very well! For the right finger, do the same”.

    I did.

    “Good. So you work for Microsoft?”

    “Yes, I do.”

    “Did they give you stock?”

    “Yes.”

    “Please take your receipt and go to window No. 11 for your visa. Have a good trip!”

    “Thanks.”

That’s it.

27 Comments

  1. Congratulations! You got your US visa.

  2. how long did it take you to get an appointment after you applied? one of our staff applied last week and her interview date was december 15th, too late to join our business trip.

    i heard that if we sign up for amcham that we can expedite the process. seems worthwhile as otherwise our business is going to suffer if none of our staff can travel.

  3. Congratulations!

    America is one defensive mode, it feels anyone and everyone is out to hurt it. This I fear will leave and accelerate the isolation of USA from teh rest of the world.

    They are so paranoid…

  4. Sometimes isolation isn’t a bad thing. If you take some time to refresh on your History, you would see that the U.S. has always been this way.

  5. The American politicians have to show the American people that they have done something to make them feel safer. Making the visa application process unnecessarily difficult for every one is one of the many ways they came up. Please hate the terrorists and forgive the American government, or else name one government that is smarter then US government.

    Isolation? America? … These two words do not go together! Americans are made up by the people from all corners of this earth and more are coming every day. Sorry I have to bring this up. Still I can not think of any other country that is more open then United States.

  6. Wow, congratulations for getting the visa without any hassle! In my country, it’s extremely difficult to obtain a US visa, it’s expensive and takes almost a year to process. Mon dieu, the paradox of modern societies! :)

  7. ILH: I meant as far as international conflicts are concerned. As far as immigration and citizenship, it’s one of the easier countries.

  8. ILH: I would think Singapore qualifies, that is if you know anything about us.

  9. One of the easier places to get citizenship and immigrate??? That’s the first I’ve ever heard. I thought it was common knowledge that Canada, Australia and New Zealand are the places to go for easy permanent residence and citizenship, especially for refugees. Also easier to get student visas. Did you know America has 65,000 Chinese international students? And New Zealand (with a population of only 4 million) has 55,000! Mostly because its so much easier to get a visa. Sometimes people apply for a US one, and are refused, then go for a NZ one. It’s now our 4th biggest export industry (“export education”). Anyway, just trying to make a point here…

    Its not too hard for us to get US visas, but the security is really tough here too. It’s better if you go through an agency. My uncle was a courier and got floored by a US marine with a gun pointed at his head for walking into an office without knocking and gave the guy a fright. And that was pre-9/11! It’s tough at the top I guess — more to fear.

  10. Kaili – True, the other countries didn’t come to mind, but still possible. I guess it’s only easy for illegal aliens from Mexico who will probably end up getting a free pass anyways

  11. Rogi and Kaili,

    Maybe you’d never imagine that some European countries are very open to immigration? In Holland, when you start your Ph.D, you pay tax, and after 5 years of tax paying, you are entitled to apply a CITIZENSHIP, so there quite number of international students get Dutch citizenship after Ph.D. I don’t know how much does it mean for an American citizenship, but the Dutch one means a lot for your living, since it is a highly social wellfared country. Sweden, Finland, Belgium..are among this kind of “non-immigration” country.

    It is rather very ironical that US, as so-called “immigration country” has the most harsh VISA system in the world, and still not safe.

  12. ok, what I’m interested in is the coming photos about your travel across U.S. after your bussiness meeting. hehe, good luck

  13. As USA wants to be the “police of the world”, they have to act like the police itself !

    I – as a western looking blond-and-blue-eyed tourist – have to get a long “chat” with the most arrogant officials in the US immigration authorities every time I enter.

    Most questions were like “do you want to live in USA ?”

    WOW, if they knew my country in Europe in deep, they would not even consider to ask me such a weird question ! Well, I don’t look like Bin Laden, I must say.

    Just SO annoying to be a stupid tourist…

    I fact I felt just like coming to Israel (the worst place for me to go to concerning this issue).

    There it took me 2 hours to get through immigration.

    Well, how is it for US citizens to get a visa for China ? Anyone knows ?

  14. To get a U.S. visa is by no means easy for most people. For F1 visa and B1 visa for non-AmChamber member companies, it takes at least one month to make the appointment. The most wired thing is, people have to call a telephone number to make the reservation and it charges very high per minute to call! This number 4008-872-333 charges 54 RMB (or 6 USD) per 12 minutes. It is estimated that the hotline will get income of 25,000,000 RMB per year. It was stopped by the local Industry and Commercial Administration before but it opened again. The application today get the interview appointment on Dec 16, 2004, which is exactly one month later. The application fee is 830 RMB. People are really frastrated to pay this money (almost the average monthly income of the city) just to hear “No. We cannot give the visa”….

  15. Carsten: There are three ways to apply a Visa for China that I know of. 1, By mail; sent in the application form, your passport, and 45 bucks. Then all you have to do is wait for about two weeks. Your visa will arrive at your mailbox. For $20 more, you only have to wait for 3~4 days. 2, Apply in person. 3, A travel agency will help you to do the work for 65 bucks.

    You can apply for multiple entries without problems.

  16. It’s easy to get a visa for China for a businesstrip.

  17. The bother with U.S. visas has little to do with defense or isolationism. It is solely an issue of economics. The USA has about a quarter of a million people annually, who illegally immigrate to the US by overstaying on a legal visa. This is on top of another quarter million who illegally enter the USA(via the mexican border), and on top of about half a million who immigrate legally. Thousands of Chinese people enter the USA every year and then disappear into society never to return to China. Immediatly all of these people can use hospitals, schools etc. which puts quite a load on social services. California has so many illegal immigrants that they are now in the process of devising a method to issue legal driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants. Just last month, 30 college students from shanghai overstayed their visa and have taken up residence in West Covina CA. I’m not really against this type of behavior(I would do it myself if I was mexican or chinese), but it is an explanation of why getting visas can be soo difficult.

    Incidentally It isnt so difficult for citizens of all countries. Many countries are required no visa at all to enter the USA. For instance Japanese citizens can all travel to the USA, visa free and stay for up to 7 months at their leisure.

  18. Wow! Amazing stats about illegal immigrants. Now I see the problem, they are just too darn popular! Land of hope and dreams eh. Actually, to stop in Australia for a one hour tarmack-sit (that didn’t even involve getting off the plane, just loading passengers on) from NZ to Malaysia, my Chinese friend had to get an Australian visa. On the way back, only Asians had their passports double checked by Australian officals after the Malaysian ones. I thought it was the most rascist thing out and was really annoyed, but my Chinese friend took it calmly since she knew many Chinese entered illegally. Do you think its big countries that can’t police it? We don’t really have that kind of problem here (New Zealand). Because if you want to stay longer you just ask for a visa and they give it to you. Also maybe because we don’t have as high status as the US, not as popular!! The problem we do have is of students coming to study but not studying and opening dodgy illegal $2 shops with stuff they imported in their suitcases.

  19. Hi, Mr. Wang, I read your experience at the US consulate in Shanghai,it is just exasperating. I am very empathizing with those rejected and dejected applicants. As I indicated a few months ago for different subject, I would not go to US consulate under any circumstance for Visa for those insulting finger printing and put up with those arrogant consulate employee. People who never come to America always think America is such a great land to visit. To tell the truth, the opposite is true. People in American are just too arrogant for any reasonable human being to bear, especially when they treat the foreigners who lack of English-speaking ability. American is a good place only for whites not any other races. That is my view. May be a lot of people disagree, I couldn’t careless they agree or disagree. That is my experience.

    From your Visa experience, I also would like to point out there is lots of faults of the Chinese government in Beijing, they are too timid for this matter. What I am really saying is that why Beijing Gov. can not exercise the same tactics to those American who want go to China. Brazil is doing it. Brazilian have courage and fairness in their mind. The Beijing gov. run by bunch of Chinese who never have their own personal experience with those arrogant whites on the daily bases, I meant work with whites and observe them and know their phyche. The people in Beijing are so eager, sometimes I felt, to ingratiating Washington. China never can become a great nation, no matter how long or how brilliant the Chinese History is, unless and until she can shout out “NO” loudly to major powers such as US and Japan. And at the same time , to ACT on it.

    I am soooory for the Chinese people sincerely, a lot of time, your own government don’t protect you in your own land, so to speak. If you know what I mean.

  20. Beijing isn’t timid, just smart. They understand that to keep foreign capital flowing in they need to keep businessmen happy and that means making the visa process easy (including for Americans). If it was very diffucult, companies wouldn’t hesitate for a second to go elsewhere like Malaysia or Thailand.

    On the other hand, I don’t see many Chinese (or Brazilian) businessmen flying into America to open new factories. Please spare us your anti-US propaganda….and you’re forgetting who WJS works for.

  21. “Did they give you stock?”

    “Yes.”

    ==================================

    ahha, Bill is not that bad, huh?

  22. Frank, “…, especially when they treat the foreigners who lack of English-speaking ability.” Actually the English-speaking ability alone does not earn you much extra respect, because America “is a good place only for whites not any other races”, to a degree anyway.

    Rogi, “Beijing isn’t timid, just smart.” Well, I’d say Beijing isn’t smart, just greedy.

  23. Frank,

    Actually, Beijing did respond to the US’s expensive phone number and finger printing. US Citizens who want to go to China are now not allowed to mail in their applications for Visas, they must either go to the consulate in person, or pay someone else to do it for them. Not a very large response, but a response nontheless.

    Joel

  24. An unrelated situation:

    A friend was doing his research in Uzbekistan, and wanted to go to Pakistan. He went to the embassy and asked how much the visa was. The guy said “what passport do you have?”

    He said “I have a Canadian one, and a New Zealand one.”

    “The Canadian passport needs $90 for a visa, the New Zealand one needs $10.”

    “Why’s that?” My friend asks.

    “Canada doesn’t play cricket.”

    I’m serious!! Basically, the agreement with Pakistan and New Zealand was to facilate international cricket games.

    Actually I think Beijing has a ‘we charge you what you charge us policy’, although doesn’t seem like it with the US. For NZ and Australia its the same price both ways, $60 New Zealand (about 300 yuan).

  25. I love the ‘aircraft’ analogue :)

    To be exact, American Chamber of Commerce Cooperate Business Visa Program was implemented before 911 took place. Nevertheless it’s more needed after that than before.

    Have a nice trip to the Big Apple! Stop by Redmond again pls

  26. Well I am livid. The US can take their country and their tourism industry and shove it. I have never been as humiliated as when I applied for a visit to my friend in the US. Had I lied on my letter from the curent work i wouldhave been better off. Still – I can now visit the U.K. and meet my friend there – who needs the bloody USA anyway – I’m sick of defending them!

  27. People…do you know how many hoops we foreigners have to go through to live and work in China? The paperwork could reach the moon and all the fees and taxes could end world poverty. I have stood in line at various government agencies many times for many hours. There are about 30 different procedures you have to go through including a health screening [which includes taking a sample of your blood!] Nothing is coordinated and all the government workers are rude- just taking your money and handing out stamps with a grunt [much like their American counterparts! Why do all government employees the world over think it is OK to be rude?]. When you move your goods here, all your personal belongings are searched and x-rayed. All your old electronics are taxed [even if your TV is 10 years old, you are taxed], even your wine is taxed. Sorry to hear about your visa problems- but perhaps you should investigate the other side to be fair!

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