Quarter Life Crisis

The world according to Sven-S. Porst

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As I recently mentioned, I'll be going to a workshop in Berkeley soon. I am looking forward to that. The schedule looks like it'll be quite strenuous but there'll be many people around talking. Some of of which I have met before.

My fellow PhD student was supposed to join me on the trip. Unfortunately he can't come because he didn't get a visum. He is from Ukraine and thus not eligible for the 'visa waiver program', thus needing to apply in advance. Apparently the U.S. consulate is quite harsh in telling people they can't have a visum. Basically they told him he didn't manage to convince them that he wasn't planning to stay. Full stop.

He even had an explicit invitation to the workshop, the only thing he didn't have was the all-important return ticket. And that he didn't have of course because he didn't want to spend money (and potentially penalty fees) on an airline ticket that he can only use if he gets a visum. It's a Catch-22: Once you have a ticket it seems more likely to get the visum. Yet, particularly with the U.S. rejecting visa to many people recently on what appears to be a non-predictable basis, you wouldn't want to get a ticket before you are sure you get the visum.

My boss, from Ukraine himself, just remarked that this kind of system naturally leads to the form of corruption where you have travel agencies that sell you an airline ticket and for a 'moderate fee' will sort out your visa problems as well… Probably not the system people are really aiming for. In fact, it would seem very easy and reasonable to issue conditional visa that are only valid in conjunction with a return ticket (just as universities can make conditional offers, say). That would provide to both parties the comfort levels they are looking for.

March 9, 2004, 10:25

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