Kjells Page


US Embassy denies visa

After spending over 900 US$ (between the Department of Anthropology at Berkeley and me), travelling all the way to El Salvador from Mexico and making this whole thing a priority for several weeks of my life, an unfriendly consular officer at the US Embassy in San Salvador denied me the visa to the US. And he didn't even tell me the truth about the reasons. See the details of all that went wrong in the whole process in the mail below which I sent to the Consul General the same day.

Von: Kjell Kühne

An: congensansal@state.gov
Datum: 09.11.2006 20:41
Betreff: flawed visa application process
To Ms. Virginia Hotchner.

Dear Ms. Hotchner,
I am writing to draw your attention to several nuisances that I have found with the service that you provide to visa applicants. As I understand, you are the head of those operations, so I feel that you are the right person to turn to. Besides, it seems that you have been directly involved in my case. (I'll use numbers, to make it easier for you.)

1. I found it impossible to make my appointment at your Embassy, being in Mexico at the time. I do not have a credit card and did not have close Salvadorean friends at the time. Since getting an interview appointment involves several days of waiting time even if it is an emergency appointment, this seems unreasonable.

2. When calling the paid call service I always pressed "one for English" and was always answered in Spanish. One time I insisted that I would like to speak in English, but unfortunately had to find that my interlocutor's English was so bad that I wasn't able to understand him and had to switch back to Spanish. Bad if you have to rely on it!

3. In total I needed to call that service six times, and one of the persons treated me badly: his name is Diego Torres. He seemed offended when I asked him to do everything as quickly as he can (it was the sixth time that I was calling that service). I asked him to tell me the time and number of my interview, but he refused to and insisted to read out the complete text of documents that need to be presented at the interview. I told him that I knew, and had checked it on the internet, but he insisted. Only after finishing all that would he tell me the date and number of my interview. The call lasted 13 minutes (more than 27$ on my friend's phone bill). None of the other operators had taken so much time or read all that stuff that I already knew. Finally I am not even sure that he correctly scheduled my interview, because when I arrived on Tuesday morning, the guy at the desk who checks if applications are complete didn't have me on the list. The interview number was 299. Oh, and he also gave me false information. He told me to bring a photo of 2 by 2 centimeters. I corrected him and said "inches", but he insisted.

4. When calling the expensive call service I was first told that I could make an appointment from Guatemala, but would have to buy another card. When I did so, I was told that I would need to travel to El Salvador first and then be able to make an appointment. I insisted and was given the appointment.

5. Today I had to call the main operator four times before she responded to my request to answer one question. She wasn't actually able to answer but then forwarded me to another person and finally my question was answered. The question was whether it would be possible to arrive after 10 am for the interview, because I had been told I could come any day until 10 am but would not have been able to arrive at that time, but since it was an emergency case I suspected that your officers would be so nice to let me pass even after 10 am, which they were in fact. But the main operator put me on the automatic voice at least three times even though I explicitly asked her not to do so but to listen to my question.

6. On the phone I was told that I did not need to fill out forms DS 157 and DS 158 again. But at the application-check desk the officer told me to fill out those forms again. I was about to do it when I had the idea to ask him to confirm "inside" that it wasn't needed. He pulled a cell phone out of his pocket, made a quick call and put the stamp on my application - without the two documents (they are contained in the original application).

4, 5 and 6 are not big issues, but if I was not so self-assure I would have been suffering a lot more to finally get my visa rejected. It seems like not taking your workers and the information they give seriously is the appropriate strategy!

7. The consular officer who did my interview - a slightly obese man called Enrique - told me that he had decided to reject my application after the first interview on Tuesday, then re-checked with you. Nonetheless I was not informed of that decision. On the application I was asked to provide address and phones here in El Salvador, so you could get in touch with me if necessary. He did not deem it necessary to inform me of the rejection, but rather asked me to get a new passport (83$), pay the Sevis fee (117$ at Western Union) and come back as quickly as possible to process my visa. So I went ahead and spent that money. I was very surprised (in a negative way) to learn that the decision to reject my visa had been taken before I arrived the second time (today, Thursday).

8. The reason for rejecting my visa that Enrique told me was that he was not able to judge the strength of my links with Germany. A consular officer in Germany would be able to do so. Hence I have to apply in Germany. This seems to be a convenient lie, as it turned out. When I called the call service from Guatemala, they told me about the possibility to apply for a visa here in El Salvador. That is why I came here in the first place. On your homepage it says that I "may have more difficulty proving outside of my own country that I meet the legal requirements for obtaining a nonimmigrant visa.". Still, third country nationals are invited to apply. If it is impossible for your officers to take the decision, you should not allow it alltogether. I consider this policy a trap which I got caught in. Not nice.

9. After insisting a bit in the "ties to my country" point, Enrique told me that he actually felt confident to judge my ties to Germany and had asked me questions concerning that on Tuesday, and had rechecked with you! The first reason he told me turned out to be a lie. A German consular officer would have to stick to the same laws in his decision. So the case was not that he couldn't judge, he could judge and he judged that my ties were not sufficient. And you supported that judgment.

10. The supposed "ties" questions Enrique asked me were about my parents' employment and how I finance my travels. In no moment did he ask me explicitly about my ties to Germany or my plans after the stay in the US. He grounded his decision in very limited information and speculations. I was prepared to show evidence about my financial situation and that of my father and I was of course willing to provide any evidence necessary for going sure that I would actually return to Germany after my stay in the US. But I was never asked for such information. When Enrique finished the first interview he asked me to get a new passport and return with that. But he did not ask me for any evidence of my ties to Germany. He said there is no hidden agenda, but in my point of view that is what a hidden agenda is: not telling the other party which topic you are talking about and what kind of information you are trying to get.

11. In the leaflet I got, social, family and economic ties to my home country are mentioned. None of the information requested in the interview addressed those. (unless you would say that the job of my parents are relevant for me being a 27 year old man)

If you look at all these points you might understand why I am quite upset with the "service" that you provide. The process includes several technical errors, and I cannot accept a decision in such a way. Throughout the process I could feel a lack of respect and appreciation of your workers and officials for my person. Not of all, many were very friendly and efficient, but the general lesson is that your department does not care too much about its "customers".

You are representing the US. Unfortunately your service reflects very poorly on your country. I know that you are not a good representation of the US people. I have many friends in the US and they are marvelous people. You DO represent the US government. And I think you represent it well. My image of the US government is that it doesn't care much about the people. Not about their own and a lot less about others. This is what I learned of this experience.

I would be happy to read your thoughts, but I don't expect you to reply. I have gotten the message of the US government to me. So you are probably able to dismiss this email as irrelevant and leave it at that. But you will not be able to forget my words. I am nobody. You cannot damage me. You can only damage yourself.

with greetings,

Kjell Kuehne

the world wide community of friendly people


  • Kjell, Kjell... I'm sorry for you and glad that I have never needed to go to the US. By the way, I'm moving in March to Toronto, where you'll be most welcome.
    Check my blog and you'll find a post about you... A month ago or so...
    A strong hug from the Southern Brazil!

    By Blogger Elton Hubner, at 6. Dezember 2006 um 13:16  

Kommentar veröffentlichen

<< Home