It took me a month before I was able to compose a letter. For this context, come up with a post. I couldn’t reconcile what title I would be making of: “I was rejected by the US Embassy“, “An Open Letter to the US Embassy“, “For the very first time, I got my visa application rejected“, “I Hate You US Embassy“… The latter seemed most fitting for the disappointment I was feeling that time. I knew I was not being rationale. What hate would do? It won’t change the situation. Moreover, it’s a plain waste of time and energy. It’s past. It belongs to the past. Move on.
Once I accepted it, I felt relieved. What’s left are learnings.
1) Be very clear of the “purpose”. This is where I might could have been wrong. My intention to visit US was primarily for tourism purposes. I did not elaborate to the Visa Officer that I might be attending a cousin’s wedding. But on top of all these, the deep-seated reason I had hoped to obtain a 10-year tourist visa was so that I can transit to US whenever I would fly to South America. Yes I will definitely be going back to South America again. And I wanted to have more options. Since there is no direct flight from Southeast Asia to South America. I need to transit somewhere else, like Europe, Middle East or USA (hopefully. I had hoped). But I didn’t utter all these. It never came out of my mouth. Was I scared? I thought it might not be necessary. And how do I explain to the Visa Officer that it is not US actually that I am super duper uber dying to visit – but something else – the countries towards South.
2) It is always best to “ask questions and clarifications”. (Towards the end, I will share a screen shot of my conversation with my sister who was so excited to know the result of my interview at the US embassy). When the Visa Officer asked me if I have a family in Singapore. I said, NO. If I have a family in US, I said NO again. I didn’t say though, that my family are in the Philippines and Australia. When he asked me to tell him of any other thing, of what I will be doing in US; that was the time I said, I may be attending a cousin’s wedding if it will be pushed through in October. The Visa Officer changed his facial expression and suddenly raised his voice. He told me, you said, you have no family in US? I said, yes, I have no family in US. I have a cousin though. Thus, it’s a relative, not a family. He then straight away gave me a letter of rejection saying that I won’t be able to have a visa because I don’t demonstrate a “strong ties” blah blah blah. I asked, what he meant by “strong ties” – he didn’t answer my question nor gave me a clear definition. Just handed me that piece of paper with strong ties blah blah blah for me to read. And before I can ask for another question or look for further explanation, the next applicant has been called. Poor me. I was totally out of the picture.
For this, the definition of “family” – perhaps the Visa Officer’s viewpoint involves: relatives, niece, nephews, uncle or aunties. My definition, comes my immediate family: father, mother, sisters or brothers. Anything outside my immediate family, we call relatives. Maybe I sounded uber pilosopo that the officer got irritated? I don’t know. How shallow could that be. I felt so stupid for being trapped in this no brainer boring discourse.
3) Assumptions can be dangerous. The Visa Officer could have been assumed that I may not return to my home country or my current residence. Hello. Earth is my home. Kidding aside. What immediately comes to my mind when I received the decision straight to my face was that this Visa Officer might be thinking another pinoy might be going for TNT in US. Apologies for my fellow folks for having this stereotyping mindset. But I couldn’t think of any acceptable or justifiable answer for my visa rejection at that very moment. It was cold inside the room. But the temperature was rising towards my head and I noticed I was sweating a lot. Talking to myself. Oh God, this is what it’s like to be rejected.
Along those huge crowd of people. I wonder about the per day statistics of visa rejection. And I can’t help thinking, that when a certain phrase such that “could not establish strong ties” – could not be explained clearly in simple terms and remains vague, it is dangerous. When something is vague, it can always work in favor of the other party. I hope I am wrong for thinking that this visa stuff is becoming like one of earning revenue. The US economy is not doing well. Imagine in a span of 5-10 minutes you get a bucks of about $208 dollars. It’s NON refundable. And by saying this, by playing a devil’s advocate, I am making assumption that is indeed dangerous. I am aware, I am putting myself into serious trouble. I may be risking a high chance of not being able to step foot forever in the United States of America. I can be black listed (if it is a warn or friendly advice, am not sure). But one thing, I would not trade my freedom of speech to remain mum or stay in my comfort zone when I feel strongly for something that needed to be heard. I may be wrong. But we all learn from mistakes. Whether seeing US will happen or not in the future, it will not make me any less of a person.
4) There will always be rude people everywhere, insensitive, inconsiderate – let them be. If it is for the evolution of their soul, if asserting their power would make them feel superior over others – let them be. There is no point of arguing with someone who is close minded. If that is part of the character a Visa Officer has to possess or an image they have to project to the public – let them be. My response could have been different. But if creating an atmosphere of positivity still did not change the situation. Just leave. For God sake. They are not god.
5) People aren’t good at judging (all the time). Very few possess the wisdom. Objectively speaking, I may sound too bias as it is coming from myself. But isn’t it a shame to deprive someone issuance of visa who is traveling regularly? Who has more than enough, sufficient funds to cover for the entire trip? Who has set foot to major continents except Antarctica and yes, unfortunately, USA – the North America? My pay slip and bank account statement for the last 3 months was not even checked. The same goes for my Certificate of Employment, my old passport, it was too late to hand my old passport when the Officer had already made a decision of non-issuance of visa. I have never wanted to brag. I am someone who prefers to be in a low-profile as much as possible. But if I knew the situation was like that – I would have said to assert myself that I have had obtained about 5 visas in Europe, I have visas in Australia and New Zealand. I have traveled to all of Southeast Asian countries, visited parts of South America, North Africa, the Middle East. I have been traveling alone to some of the countries when it is not deemed safe for a woman to travel alone. One sad truth. And it all boils down in here. I am a passport holder of a 3rd world country. Yes, life isn’t fair. And yes I may really sound too bitter for saying all these. Pardon but I have to let it out.
Through these lessons, one can draw a hypothesis that obtaining a US Visa is a highly subjective business. You may meet all the bloody requirements but those are not a guarantee to get a visa. The Visa Officer failed me in the interview. Maybe I was not smart enough. Or I never made an impression at all.
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I decided to publish this to share the message that even if I am traveling regularly and have obtained several visas from the so called rich countries, I am not an exemption for visa rejection. It probably is a bit difficult to comprehend. It takes humility to reach this point. It won’t deter me however, to stop the adventure. I will keep on traveling and exploring the world. That is for sure. No mishaps could ever stop me . I am a free-spirit :).
Thank you dear readers for bearing with me in this particularly long post.
US Embassy – I was certainly disappointed. But thank you anyway.
Mafey (with Interview Confirmation No. AAOO4BOJYO)
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And here was what took place at the US Embassy, one month ago. I cut my sister’s part as not to involve her in my trouble ;). And oh you might discover something – about my personal biases, how we talk about our stuff…