In the past few days I have been reminded twice of how much paperwork and bureaucracy is involved getting visas to work in and travel between countries. So much of what is a part of the process today is meaningless when it comes to establishing the eligibility for a visa and though there is a lot of technology being used, especially in the US immigration system, it is not being used smartly to avoid the time and productivity drain that people who have to go through it, endure.
I’m not here to report a bad employee, but a bad process and an attitude that says, “hey we are already doing immigrants/travelers a favor, what else do you want from us”. My experience on the days I had to actually go into the consulates wasn’t that bad, that is after I had spent days getting all the paperwork together, getting paranoid double checking that I had everything, making arrangements at work for the days I would have to be away or busy taking care of things. It is no exaggeration to say that the process is mentally draining and when you have to do it over and over again (once in a couple of years), it can be really frustrating even for seasoned travelers/workers.
Same information over and over and over again
There are pieces of information that I must have entered at least a 100 times by now. Name, parents names, passport number, employment history, education history and a bunch of other stuff which is not going to change and if it will, there should be a process for managing that change, not a retarded process to force people to enter that information on every damn form that they fill out. Entering the same information again and again increases the chance that a person will make a mistake at some point and inconsistencies will start showing up. It’s almost as if the system is designed to make that happen. It’s as if the department of homeland security (or whatever) is saying, “we’re testing you on your ability to be able to bear the pain of writing out redundant pieces of information in various forms without ever making a human error. That’s the kind of person we want here”. After spending billions of dollars and introducing a huge layer of ineffective bureaucracy to track immigrants and foreigners, why don’t they just get the information from their databases? It seems like all of that infrastructure is there just to incriminate and not to help.
Lets have some respect eh?
Isn’t it irritating how the folks in most consulates (especially US consulates) think they’re personally doing a favor to those coming in to get visas. I feel like saying “dudes, I pay taxes too, so do the job I pay you to do and show a little respect”. They are not accountable for their behavior because of that clause in the visa rules that says [paraphrased], “Even if all your papers in order, everything is perfect, you are not guaranteed to get a visa. The final call is up to the consulate officer handling your application”. What that means is that it’s really up to them to show courtesy and do their job efficiently. If they don’t and you call them on it, they might just decide that something about you isn’t right and you should not get the visa. When I went to get my H1B visa stamped last time, there was a very courteous and cheerful lady officer who checked my papers (and I complimented her on her great attitude) and a really nice officer who interviewed me. However, in the past I have had dry, rude and condescending officers who look like they are just waiting for me to say something they don’t like or forget to bring some unimportant photocopy so they can send me back without a visa. I see the need for having trained personnel who are capable of making subjective evaluations about people, however I would like to see some tangible accountability and oversight that is visible and accessible to the people who have to go through the process. Is that too much to ask for in a country that prides itself for transparency and fairness and when we actually pay for the services?
And what is it with the security people at these consulates… it’s like they are on a power trip of some kind, almost hilarious to watch them operate. Sure, US Consulates all over the world are under threat and you have to be alert and careful but shouting at the little old Chinese lady for not understanding what new security maneuver you are asking her to follow isn’t going to “secure our borders”.
It’s getting worse all the time
It used to take a few hours to get your H1B visa stamped in 2004 in the US Consulate in Vancouver. In 2008, it is expected to take anywhere from 1 day to 4 working days, and most often it does take 3-4 days. You could pay cash (I think) for the visa processing fee in 2004. Now you have to go to Scotia Bank in Canada, deposit $131 there, get a deposit slip and submit that to the US Consulate. Why are things getting more and more difficult? Shouldn’t the model be around streamlining the process, and shouldn’t the cost to the people going to the process also be taken into consideration? Who is managing this process and where is the answerability? If this was someone in a private firm, they would be fired long ago… luck for them incompetence is a highly desirable trait in the Bush administration.
That’s it for this rant…