U.S. Consulate in Istanbul – The Cause of My Newfound Righteous Fury

I don’t want to get into all the details right now about what inspired the letter I will copy below. I am sure you can fill in most of the gaps: It was not a good day for us in Istanbul (although, for once it didn’t rain) because Fati’s visa application was rejected after many hours of careful preparation and stress. The good news is that I didn’t have a total nervous breakdown or turn violent (unless you count shouting at the switchboard operator because he wouldn’t put me in touch with his supervisor) and that we had the pleasure of being hosted outside of the historic city of Bursa, the former seat of the Ottoman Empire, by our dear friend and fellow student Vedat and his family. I will post more on that piece of good news later. For now, enjoy the latest stage of my struggle against Uncle Sam:

To Whom It May Concern:

As an American citizen and taxpayer, I am extremely disappointed by your treatment of my fellow student who applied for a non-immigrant visa this month. I am asking that you clarify your policies so that I can determine whether it was the action of a rogue agent or systemic in nature. Either way, I hope that you take my concerns seriously because any maltreatment of visa applicants abroad reflects poorly not only on your agency but on the country and its citizenry as a whole.

I was not allowed to accompany her personally and had to wait outside in the cold, which was irritating enough, and I would like you to explain to me why there is no waiting room or why it’s not allowed for me to enter my own consulate without an appointment — Americans can enter almost any other government building without an appointment — but my complaint is primarily based on what she told me after informing me that her application was rejected.

I can provide her report, if necessary, but in the interests of time, I would like to ask you a few questions and to attach the necessary documents that explain your policies:

1) Is it true that you do not accept non-immigrant visa applications from non-Turkish citizens at the U.S. Consulate in Istanbul? If so, why do you not post this clearly on your website and in the application? Why do you allow unsuspecting third-country citizens to waste their time, energy, and money on a lost cause (like my fellow student, who is from Nigeria)?

2) Do you reject applicants based on country of origin? If so, how do you justify/defend this given anti-discrimination laws and American values? My fellow student was told implicitly by one of your agents that her country of origin was a factor in her application’s rejection (despite the fact that she is not a risk for over-staying her visa). Was this is an ill-advised comment or a reflection of policy?

3) What criteria do you use when assessing non-immigrant visa applications? Clearly displaying this criteria would allow applicants to determine whether or not to apply for a visa before spending their time and money.

I will end by saying that I hope you, at the very least, consider the dignity of each and every individual who applies for a visa to the United States. They deserve the same consideration and respect that Americans receive within the country and outside of it. To view them as potential squatters based on arrogant perceptions of U.S. superiority relative to their countries of origin is not only wrong — it contradicts the very values that the United States was founded upon and should maintain.


Matthew Johnson


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