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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Outrage Over U.S. Embassy's 'Courtesy' Problem

In response to "The U.S. Visa Lottery," by Boris Altshuler, Oct. 28.





Editor:


Altshuler's comment, focusing on the difficulties faced by those who seek a visa for visiting the United States, was very interesting. The arbitrary refusal of visas and the rude behavior on the part of the American Embassy officials in Moscow are not limited just to Russians. I often come across complaining comments in this respect from nationals of other countries as well. I myself, an Indian national, too had that kind of humiliating experience this spring.


I have lived in Moscow for the last 28 years and am now retired. My wife and I have close relatives in the United States and both of us have visited there more than once. However, we had a rude shock in store for us when we applied for American visas in April. It came in the form of insulting behavior and arbitrary refusal of visas, in clear contrast to the sympathetic and helpful attitude on the part of the same American Embassy some years ago.


After our applications were refused, we asked the consular officer to whom can we appeal: She curtly informed us that she was the final authority. When we asked what we can do to try again, we were told that the only way was to apply afresh. We were also assured that we would definitely be rejected again. Instead, we went to Germany to visit our son -- without any difficulty in getting visas.


I believe the issues here are clear:


?The arbitrary refusal of non-immigrant visas should definitely be considered a violation of human and democratic rights. It is really the same as when totalitarian regimes refuse to grant passports to their own citizens.


?Violations of visa terms should be dealt with under the prevalent laws of the land. If the provisions of such laws are inadequate, the American government should make suitable amendments instead of assuming in advance dishonesty and ulterior motives on the part of every visa applicant.


?An appeal mechanism must be established so that unjust decisions can be reversed.


?Embassy officials must conduct themselves with courtesy. While I appreciate the enormous pressure these officials are under, I believe that most unfavorable decisions can be conveyed politely if there is the will to do so.


Atul Sawani


Moscow


Editor:


Recently the American Embassy has gotten some bad press regarding the process for obtaining a visa to the United States. Many people, including Russian government officials, have been insulted by consular officials, asked impertinent questions, and have been rejected despite meeting the stated requirements for receiving a non-immigrant visa.


The response from the embassy is that they have a heavy workload, have little time to spend with each applicant, are restricted by American immigration law, and that they give visas to 80 percent of all applicants.


Recently, the commercial director and the St. Petersburg office director of my firm attempted to get visas based on an invitation from a firm we are trying to conclude a contract with. The commercial director was told at the beginning of the interview that he was a liar. The consular official asked him what he does and why he wants to go to the United States. It seems that his explanation was not sufficient: I guess discussing a contract worth six-figures isn't worth going to the United States. In the end, he was denied because -- despite a wife, children, apartment, dacha, car and a very well-paying job in Russia -- he has nothing worth coming back for.


The director of our St. Petersburg office had even less success. The consular official said he doubted that this applicant was really a director of a company. I asked the official what would constitute proof and he responded that if he told us, this "so-called director" would falsify everything. If he was really the director of a firm, the consular official said, he would know how to prove it.


A commentary in this paper last month said that it wasn't the content of the interviews, but the conduct of the interviewer that the applicants found insulting. I guess being told you are a liar or that you are the kind of person who would abandon your spouse and children should not be taken as an offense. The embassy should know: People wouldn't get so offended if it were only because they failed to meet the requirements of American law. They have a serious problem with some of their staff.


Moscow Representative


ITS Japan, Ltd.





A Case of GAI Brutality


Editor:


Recently, a planned visit by Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin to Poland was canceled because Russian train passengers were robbed in Warsaw, got beaten up by Polish police and were kept in jail for up to two days.


The outrage of the authorities and media is perfectly understandable. Hopefully officials will also open their eyes to the outrageous and unlawful ways in which Russian law-enforcement bodies treat "their" foreigners. I myself was recently abused by a GAI officer.


The officer who stopped my car did not tell his name and rank as he should have. He immediately started to shout aggressively and tried to intimidate me by waving his stick.


When the policeman learned that I had forgotten my car documents, he shouted that I would be arrested and put in jail for at least a week. My car, he added, would be confiscated. When I showed him my correspondent's accreditation and told him that the documents were in my apartment 150 meters away, the officer pushed away the accreditation and tried to force me into his car.


When I first refused to get in, the officer became even more agitated and hit me with his stick. I understood that this man was dangerous and that all he wanted was to beat somebody up. I was taken to a police station nearby. A guard came out of the station, spoke briefly with the GAI officer and then left us alone in the car. The policeman continued insulting me, waving his stick and shouting that he "would teach me how to speak politely to a GAI officer."


He turned on the radio so that nobody could hear us. When I tried to calm him down and asked what exactly he wanted from me, he screamed hysterically that he wanted to see me rot in jail.


Finally, desperate, I put out all the money I had on me. As I showed it to him, somewhere between 50,000 and 80,000 rubles, the policeman grabbed it, counted it and threw me out of his car.


Needless to say, this experience, which lasted for almost an hour,was extremely humiliating. When I told this story to my Russian friends, they were not surprised. Since beating up drivers seems to be common practice in Moscow, I would not have bothered recalling this event, were it not out of irritation over the hypocrisy of the Russian authorities in criticizing the reprehensible conduct of Polish police.


Wierd Duk


Moscow