Thursday, June 10, 2010

Vilma Martinez should improve the US embassy

My good friend Arjan had offered for awhile to let us use his frequent flyer miles, and Ceci wanted to see where I grew up, so we decided to visit the US.

I did some research online and it wasn't obvious what visa my Argentina wife should apply for. On Ceci's urging, I called the US embassy. I spoke with a few people and was told to apply for a tourist visa. I was very skeptical, but they were insistent. The last woman I talked to in particular told me she was 100% sure I should apply for a tourist visa.

So Ceci and I paid the $140 put all her papers together. We had evidence that we've bought a new car that we cannot legally sell. We had a copy of the 2 year lease on our house. We had pictures from our wedding 6 months ago. We had all the paperwork showing she has had the same job for the last 8 years. Etc etc.

After waiting in line in the cold for hours, we got to talk to the consular officer (facing the windows, she all the way to the left, I believe it was lane 5, on June 7th at about 11:30). I went to the window with Ceci. The consular officer asked where Ceci wanted to visit. Ceci said "Delaware," since my parents live there. The consular officer didn't understand her, so I said "Delaware. My parents live there." The consular woman said, "You're an American? Go wait over there!" I left, and sat down. 10 seconds later, the woman told Ceci to get me.

Although for brevity's sake I won't transcribe everything she said, the consular officer was quite rude. It is possible to reject someone yet make them feel like it's an unfortunate consequence. This woman made us mad at how she treated us. I can't believe she represents the US in a professional capacity to foreigners behaving so rudely.

The rude consular officer told me that the law says that spouses of American citizens cannot ever get visas. My understanding is that this is the common interpretation of the law, but not the actual law. The consular officer rejected us in about 30 seconds before ever giving us a chance to show her any documents.

So what makes me really mad about all this?

* My wife cannot visit the US. That means I can't visit the US because I'm not going without her.

* The marriage penalty. My wife has less rights by marrying me than she would if she were only dating me. By marrying me, she loses rights with regards to America? That's messed up.

* Not only was I given false information by the US Embassy, I was given false information by an Embassy employee who insisted that she was 100% sure that Ceci should apply for a tourist visa after hearing my story. If she had just given me false information that would be one thing. But the employee insisted in the face of my's not like it is her job to advise people. Oh wait.

* That false information led to me losing $140 plus about 10 hours of my time (some of it standing in the cold. I hate the cold!) and about 10 hours of Ceci's. The low limit on how I value my time would be about $60 an hour.

* My wife and I were treated quite rudely by the consular officer. My wife in particular was very upset by how rudely she was treated.

The US Ambassador to Argentina is Vilma Martinez. Ambassador Martinez, the American embassy in Buenos a disaster.