Jun 3, 2006

Strict visa laws

One of the things many of us take for granted is that we can come and go as we please to America. Apparently the process for foreigners to come to the US is quite strict, and especially so for those from tightly-ruled countries like China. I was surfing around the website of the US Embassy in Beijing and found this little tidbit that puts it in perspective.
Why does the U.S. have such strict visa laws?
The United States is an open society. Unlike many other countries, the United States does not impose internal controls on visitors, such as registration with local authorities. In order to enjoy the privilege of unencumbered travel in the United States, foreigners have a responsibility to prove they are going to return abroad before a visitor or student visa is issued. Our immigration law requires consular officers to view every visa applicant as an intending immigrant until the applicant proves otherwise.
The strict controls make complete sense to me. Not just in China, but all over Europe too, as a tourist you need to register with the police wherever you go. Usually the hotel you're staying at will do it for you. In America, as long as you're money is green you can stay wherever you'd like and even register as "Mickey Mouse" at the hotel if you want. We're not being overly strict at all. Foreigners that want to come to America for tourism should be greatful that we're devoting taxpayer resources to review their applications. Rather than complaining about the safeguards we use to maintain our democratic society, they should be thanking us for the very opportunity to apply. Is the amount of money they'll contribute to the tourist economy in America enough to make up for the expense of the application review process? I think it's a safe assumption to treat all visa applicants as potential immigrants until proven otherwise, especially those from countries where emigrating to America is a hope for so many people.

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