Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
Administrative Purgatory (haxx.se)
221 points by robin_reala 7 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 87 comments

Belgium can be equally excruciating. a friend of mine moved from india to belgium. after living here for more than a year, his parents wanted to visit him. the parents have a house in india, family, the father is on a decent indian pension, etc.

it took the belgian embassy about four months to decide on the application. however, to be able to apply, you have to make all your travel arrangements. they didn't anticipate the process to take this long, had to first move, and then cancel their arrangements altogether. in the end, the application got rejected, but the official reasons were cryptic. my friend's interpretation was that the embassy was concerned that his parents might not return to india. they had the option to appeal, which can take 6 to 12 months. chances of appealing successfully are low and so are the chances of getting a visa in a renewed application. in the process, they lost about €3000, which is a lot of money in rupees.

instead of appealing, the parents booked a vacation in the netherlands. the visa application went through in less than a month. they got a schengen visa, meaning that they could also visit belgium. and this is how his parents visited him in the end.

his conclusion was that belgian bureaucracy is out of hand and that the EU has interesting loopholes.

I have a friend who's a musician, that's been coming to the US to tour a month a year for a decade. This last time his visa got stuck for a full year and even his immigration lawyer couldn't figure out who was holding it up. Instead they applied for the EB-'Eistein visa' which was issued in only 3 weeks so that he could tour. It did take a call from said lawyer reminding them that a US corporation would be losing money if it wasn't done on time.

Still, he was shocked shocked by a quick EB as a weekend strummer with a few regular US gigs. Lawyer cost $6k.

US immigration is on par (or worse than) third world countries. Having been in it for 10 years now, I highly recommend people to consider doing business in some other country.

At the end, there is only so much time left in life. Do you want to spend months and years pandering to third world bureaucracy or do you want to be quick, efficient and productive in this one single life you have?

Despite being someone from a country that end in -stan, I got my US travel visa approved immediately and processed in a week.

While I don't know why you were rejected the first time around, I think the 102 day wait time is because your application is at the bottom of someone's work pile, where it will stay until they realize something is wrong.

I'd personally ping them again and politely ask if it usually takes this long to process applications of this sort.

I think this is a very common misconception. DHS and USCIS aren't idiots; they can tell there's a world of difference between a former Soviet republic(e.g. KZ,KG,UZ,etc) and other -stan countries. Also, the US maintains the fairly extensive diplomatic staff in those states. Lastly, if you were to apply for a Green Card, while holding an H1-B, you would get it years before an Indian or Chinese national due to the quota system. I would imagine it should be also easier for people like you to get the Green Card through the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program.

> DHS and USCIS aren't idiots; they can tell there's a world of difference between a former Soviet republic(e.g. KZ,KG,UZ,etc) and other -stan countries.

I am a white and Christian European, the sort of person who generally does not get much scrutiny when traveling internationally. Yet quite often when I fly into the USA, the mood of the Customs and Border Patrol officer changes markedly when he notices that I have a Kazakhstan tourist visa in my passport. Since the officer is not allowed to ask you right out “Are you Muslim?”, I once got the indirect question “Did you travel to this country because you sympathize with the belief system of its inhabitants?”

I would hope that DHS staff in offices vetting visas are more knowledgeable about the world, but it wouldn’t surprise me at all if they weren’t.

I was actually born in KZ and I can't remember even a single time a CBP officer would give me a hard time because of that. Unless you are from one of Eastern European countries meaning you probably have relatives living in KZ or friends, I can see why a tourist visa for KZ has piqued his interest: it's fairly unusual.

Thank you for your advice, unfortunately, I'm from the one -stan country ineligible for the Diversity programme: Pakistan.

Some Mozilla employees might make inquiries with their congressional representatives and senators; that's what they are there for, in theory.

I think the SF/BA reps and senators are already pretty well-aware that our borders are terrible, but they lack the political situation and/or acumen to do anything about it.

They can make specific requests. It's just like tweeting at CEOs: terrible for democracy, but often surprisingly effective.

It’s not about that; Congress-people making an inquiry can often cause someone’s visa application to jump to the top of the work pile.

Mozilla could also reach out to the State Department, though under the current administration I wouldn’t expect much help.

This makes me wonder how many thousands or hundreds of thousands of people are stuck in similar USCIS/USCBP purgatories regardless of the type of visa application they're waiting to receive a response about.


"Haxx is a bunch of friends who work as software developers and hackers in Sweden"

Yep, that'll do it.

I'm old enough to remember when "hacker" was a term of respect and awe for people with top notch technical skills.

Then again, I have come across many Americans who think "boffin" is a derogatory/negative term too...

That's because the US has an insidious, persistent, and wide-spread strain of anti-intellectualism. I can think of no time prior to college outside my home when being smart was actually considered "cool". In the US, "cool" is bossing other people around, and smart people get in the way of that. It's why Presidents like GWB purposefully put on a "dopey" persona, and it works.

When I first heard "boffin" I too thought it was derogatory, because, why would someone use a slang term to describe someone as smart if it wasn't in a snarky or derogatory manner?

Americans instinctively assume “boffin” is derogatory because it’s totally absent from American parlance (iOS autocorrects it to “bogging” in US), so without the cultural context it just sounds like a goofy word, like “doofus.” In an American context, it’s not a word that sounds as if it’s being spoken with admiration, so the true meaning is counterintuitive.

But when someone says/texts me a word I do not understand, I look it up including the contexts it is used in. I do not immediately, from the sound of a word I never heard, assume someone is calling me an idiot. Doing so actually makes you an idiot.

I do not understand how it seems logical to assume that me speaking the English I have learned in school (which is the Queens English when I was young in the Netherlands) is somehow interpreted by someone with a limited vocabulary as derogatory.

I associate it with The Register. A lot of British slang sounds silly to Americans.[1] Construing it as derogatory is not an expression of American anti-intellectualism. It's the opposite - the term sounds to us like it's making fun of smart people especially due to certain writers overusing it.

[1] A parody of this: https://www.memecenter.com/fun/3500907/my-face-when-american...

Don't believe I've seen the word anywhere but El Reg for a long time.

When I first heard samples from The Warriors (years before I saw the film) I misheard "Good news, boppers" as "Good news, boffins". I have never gained employment as a radio DJ.

How old are you? By 1983 "hacker" already had negative connotations.

>vintage coder

woops, my apologies, carry on.

That's probably because it's often used to describe lawyers, which have a pretty notorious representation, as a whole.

And here we are discussing this on HACKER NEWS :))))

Don't think I'll be adding this "social media" account information to any visa request.

then you'll be committing a felony

Not if you don’t consider it social media. Which I don’t.

If anything , given the average level of discourse here, I’d say this is anti-social media.

Exactly, this is not social media. No felony.

It's a site where we browse published stories and then go at length having meaningful discussions. The pinnacle of social media.

According to whom? I subscribe to descriptive linguistics , and I will bet you a good sum of money that if you surveyed a representative subset of English speakers about “social media”, the single most common word in all the answers would be “friends”. Now, please don’t anyone take this personally: I appreciate the content, and I wish everyone here the very best , but I cannot with all the goodwill in the world call anyone here a friend.

It may be different for Reddit or Tumblr or whatever. But I don’t know anyone here by handle (aside from Nagle , Graham , Altman and McKenzie , but only because I know of them from the real world, and they don’t know me). There is no culture of identity at all. Signatures are actively discouraged. Etc etc , long story short: nothing social about this place. No friendships, no social structure , just discussions.

This is anathema to social media. Putting this on the list should be a felony ;)

Who could possibly remember every forum they have created an account on?

But he remembered this one and is saying he won’t list it.

I'll probably have forgotten by the time my visa application comes around.

Better that than be denied.

To anyone who thinks this is ridiculous, try browsing the search results from the Google News tab:


In the US, it would be unusual to find someone outside of tech circles who thinks the term "hacker" means something non-malicious.

Yeah, had the exact same thoughts here. Using names like that is just asking for trouble.

Probably true, but also ridiculous.

IANAL but ESTA is not a work permit [1], and if you were going to San Francisco for an all-hands meeting at your employer, then that sounds like work?

[1] https://de.usembassy.gov/unpaid-work-is-work-make-sure-you-h...

You are allowed to travel for business meetings under ESTA/the visa waiver program, same as a B1 visa. https://nl.usembassy.gov/visas/visa-waiver-program/

I think attending meetings of a US parent company is a pretty common use case. It is an elitist rule but what isn't.

Makes a lot of sense; companies need to do business with other companies, often abroad. If you have to get work permits for visits and meetings, that would hamper the economy on both sides. Not sure about the elitist part there.

An all-hands meeting seems to be a classic example of "business" assuming they're employed by a non-US entity (even if you work for a US-based company/org, they may have a non-US entity employing you).

Contact immigration lawyer, maybe?

I wonder if there is a 'job creation system' at play here for those lawyers to have a job or exist in the first place. If a country has a good and functional administrative system in place, that would not be needed.

This is after all partly why the US tax system is so complex... It's well-known that tax preparers lobby against tax simplification.

This is part of the problem with there not being clear rights for people traveling to countries. You end up with a weird case where most people can get in, but some people end up in administrative balderdash with no recourse.

It would look very different if the country just wouldn't let anyone in at all, but because it lets some people in, we get this "well, you can't complain" situation.

Worth noting: there is a way to do this well. I've been through a visa screening involving domestic and international criminal and espionage background checks that completed in about ten minutes while I waited (that country was the Philippines). There are also a great deal of countries where they allow visas on arrival, where presumably the quite minimal screening happens at the airline.

While this is true for just about every single other country, the US remains an impossible-to-grok travesty of justice. When I read about what my country does to the people that seek to be a part of it, I can only think back to the 1700s where many many countries wouldn't just deny you entry, they'd imprison you for the horrible horrible crime of just being at their borders.

The father of the guy that wrote The Count of Monte Cristo was imprisoned for two years in the Kingdom of Naples for the horrific crime of needing provisions after a storm killed their self-reliance.

It's exactly the kind of barbarism I think of when I consider the US stance towards any kind of interested interlopers. You must be doing something wrong, wait until I go through the X days process to decide you're not a horrible person.


Still happening today if you saw the news this year.

>Among other things it requires me to provide info about [...] and every email address I've used during the last 5 years.

the other requirements are quite easy to fulfill, but the last one... what if you used disposable mail sites (think mailinator), or a bunch of registered throwaway emails that you simply don't remember anymore?

I am risking down votes and flagging on this, and it's so worth it.

I can't help but feel a nasty, uncalled-for sense of schadenfreude at this - White European gets denied entry to the US and it's MAJOR NEWS!! Plenty of equally talented, educated, trained, motivated, law-abiding people face this treatment everyday (or otherwise avoid risking this treatment by just not going) - just because they happen to be from "shitholes" (US Presidential Terminology of course) that happen to be shitholes in no small part because of the greedy raping and looting in quite recent history by regimes (or antecedents) that are today closing their gates (Daniel's own country included).

Nothing against Daniel - deep respect for the guy!! I hope this problem resolves for him.

But man, can't help the smile on my face. Not in the least bit because of the complaining in Daniel's post of the DS-160 - something I had to fill too, and hated it just as much, and wouldn't have made the news if I was the author of cURL because I'm Indian.

I don't exactly know which countries are nowadays classified by president Trump as a "shithole", but I wonder what is a country that classifies as such and had been "raped and looted" by Sweden in the past?

Thinking back to the history lessons about where the historical Sweden waged wars at all in the past, I still couldn't figure it out... Ukraine, Poland, Russia, Lithuania, Estonia, Germany, Norway, Finland? Nope, none of these.

In the first couple of paragraphs I immediately thought 'haxx' is it. In the past at work when I downloaded from haxx.se I was always worried that IT security would swat me.

Administrative processing (a euphemism for a security background check) often takes multiple months. This happens regularly to engineers and students from places like China or Iran. It can easily take half a year. I'm sure it feels Kafkaesque, but it's not unusual or exceptional.

I wonder what would come out of Daniel filing a FOIA request about himself to CBP. FOIA is a nice law in that "any person" (as written in the statute) has standing to file a request, regardless of relationship to the U.S.

Who lobbies for our awful travel system? I mean, of course there's a large contingent of Americans who are xenophobic and nationalist, but such pseudo-fascist bureaucratic red tape doesn't come into being unless powerful entities who stand to benefit from the bureaucracy take advantage of the populist zeitgeist to bend political will to their favor. Who gains power by arbitrarily rejecting random Swedes' visas and ultimately chilling international intrapersonal relationships and flow of culture?

> such pseudo-fascist bureaucratic red tape doesn't come into being unless powerful entities who stand to benefit from the bureaucracy take advantage of the populist zeitgeist to bend political will to their favor.

I assure you it can arise entirely out of negligence, ignorance, and the mindless application of poorly thought-out rules. The impulse to look for the hidden "powerful entities" behind the curtain is an understandable but unfortunate form of conspiracy thinking, and it's unlikely to guide you to the truth of situations like the author's.

In principle I don't disagree with you; the US certainly had its share of purely bureaucratic boondoggles (e.g. Veterans' Affairs). And were it not for the TSA, our almost systematically acerbic customs officers, overbroad do-not-fly lists, the excessive systematic distrust placed on foreign visitors (e.g. by requiring visas even from close allies), and (most recently) travel bans designed to cut off families from each other, I would agree with you in this specific case. But these aren't just happenstance resulting from bureaucratic fumbling; these are conscious policy decisions.

We did after all just experience a national episode of confusion by a seemingly organic process (fake news) which turned out to be orchestrated by a foreign power for its own benefit. It's not unthinkable to me that (purely as an example) Russia also tilts public discourse in such a way as to make it politically untenable to dismantle, or even let stagnate, these self-destructive security apparatuses.

It's entirely possible the answer is very simply, "the xenophobic voter block really is so committed and influential." No conspiracy there, and that's a very useful answer. It tells us exactly where we need to focus our energy to fight these policies. I personally doubt that xenophobes are so educated about international travel as to pay sufficient attention to the workings of the visa system that it matters to them in the voting booth that Swedes need visas for nerd conferences, but I could very well just be biased.

My first guess is that a lot of this happens somewhat behind the scenes. Senate committee asks what's been done to keep the bad people out, bureaucrat replies with new 20 item checklist. Next year it's 40 items... Insane senators certainly want lots of public showboating, but also probably believe in their mission and try to apply the screws even when voters won't know.

That's my fear... It's scary when someone with a private, nationally destructive agenda ends up in a position of power, buoyed by voters who only care that they make a show of loyalty over some unrelated and pointless hot-button issue. Politicians have gotten really good at identifying and exploiting those lately...

> Who lobbies for our awful travel system?

American voters. American paranoia causes things like "Extreme vetting" to be totally acceptable. The consequence is global businesses need to move things out of the country.

Global businesses love hiring people from outside the US because they love paying them a far lower salary than a US citizen would command.

> Global businesses love hiring people from outside the US because they love paying them a far lower salary than a US citizen would command.

In other words, they don't want to hire workers who want high pay but not be world class. Global businesses want people who are exposed globally, are sensitive to global markets and people and are worth the global salary they command.

Why would a "global" company hire an entitled person of any nationality who just wants higher salary while looking down on people of other countries?

You think all the workers brought to the US on programs like H1-B are "world class"? They are generally good people and good employees, but for the most part they are operating at a level many US workers are capable of working at, with skills US workers possess. Companies bring them over because they know they can get away with paying them less.

Global competition among labor for work is one of the driving forces behind the erosion of the middle class.

>Global competition among labor for work is one of the driving forces behind the erosion of the middle class.

Erosion of the _American_ middle class, creation of the middle class in developing countries. I fail to see why an American deserves better compensation for their work than e.g. a Chinese doing similar work, just because of the luck of where they were born.

> You think all the workers brought to the US on programs like H1-B are "world class"?

Have you ever considered questions such as:

- The program itself might be flawed? US needs to improve its processes (ties to the original post)

- Why are Americans letting companies do that? Have you asked for something different from your government or are you just blasting a system from the last century?

- Why are CEOs allowed to gain the riches of global profits while being taxed lesser than middle class?

Globalization wasn't just "job stealing". It brought ungodly profits into corporate America. So many American companies have revenues more than GDP of entire nations. That goes into your 401k. So you have a share of work done in other countries.

Ever asked why middle class Americans are not getting a larger share of it from American rich people? Why isn't the money trickling down as promised?

At the end, you vote for your representatives. Your representatives seem to make the rich richer and create inhuman systems like H-1B instead of merit based systems. If you just elect someone who shuts the whole system down without an adequate replacement, forget about talented people, like OP, coming into the US.

Immigration laws have largely been unchanged for decades and are severely out of touch as a result. Nobody with actual power (i.e. Congress) wants to touch immigration as it's a politically charged subject. Politics is ugly in the US nowadays, everybody knows this but it's hard to break out of the deadlock.

It is a tactic common to abusers to cut victims ties to the outside world. Here we see the same psychological dynamic at work at the level of nations.

The truth is much worse: nobody is in control, nobody knows what they're doing, everybody is just kind of doing something.

Lots of ugly and false assumptions you're making in this comment, but I'll bite.

Billions of people want to come to the US. Many more than want to go to, say, Argentina. So our immigration laws need to be a bit more strict to restrict what could be a flood of immigrants to a more manageable flow. This is necessary for cultural and economic reasons, to promote unity and stability, which make America great.

Second, we are understandably paranoid about security, which also leads us to more restrictive immigration laws.

That said, nearly a million people immigrate into the US each year. Most Americans like legal immigrants contrary to what propoganda you may read or hear, considering we are a nation of immigrants.

> Many more than want to go to, say, Argentina. So our immigration laws need to be a bit more strict to restrict what could be a flood of immigrants

I disagree with this statement. The immigration laws of the United States need not be more strict; if anything, they should simply be more fair. The biggest problem with our laws is that they leave far too much up to discretion. If you turn in this stack of paperwork and if the person reviewing the application finds that you have met the requirements and if the person reviewing the application doesn't simply say "denied," then you may receive a visa.

Decisions of immigration, visa, and consular officers are not reviewable by any court or administrative body. You are not even entitled to know why you were denied. The reviewing individual may simply deny you for no reason at all.

That's not fair.

> Second, we are understandably paranoid about security

I also disagree that our paranoia about security is "understandable." I don't believe that it is. Virtually every action we have taken since That One Big Attack By Terrorists That Everyone Cites has shown that we're less paranoid about security and more paranoid about looking secure. Those are two almost totally different things. This means that our government takes wild actions that make us look secure--like simply banning all nationals of several countries, even people who happen to be dual-nationals of those countries--while accomplishing little.

That's unwise.


I really wish the right would stop holding up as an example a terrorist attack against what continues to be one of the most diverse, international, and left-leaning parts of the nation. Especially when the example is used to justify limiting travel from every country except the country most of the perpetrators were from, but including countries which have significant immigrant populations in the victim city. It's borderline offensive and patronizing.

Not to mention rape victims... I know a few, and all of them attended or were wildly supportive of both the Women's March and the demonstrations against the travel bans. I don't think they'd appreciate their role in your analogy.

The discussion above is talking about general immigration laws and attitudes, not the travel ban in particular.

That said, my analogy is completely appropriate - and necessary - as there seems to be many who are unable to empathize with people who are scared for their safety, whether justly or unjustly paranoid.

First off, you used inflammatory language with the word "paranoia." Fear is reasonable; paranoia is not.

Second, your analogy is not apt because you cannot equate the fear felt by an individual with the fear felt by a populace. Only one person has input into the former; many have input into the latter and they all, as individuals, exercise it in different ways.

Third, you did not respond to my point. I was not dismissing the fear; I was dismissing our paranoid response to it. Fear of an attack is reasonable. Fear of "looking insecure" is not. They are different. The former would have done things like streamlined intelligence gathering and looked into the myriad causes of attacks intended to create a terror response. The latter bans nationals of a handful of countries--but not the one whose nationals were responsible for the Big Attack we so fear--as a knee-jerk response.

On the gripping hand, we won't do the former because we may just find that the terrorists look a lot different from who we think they look like.

I can go to Sweden (and thus the entire Schengen zone, i.e. most of Western Europe) with just a passport, no visa. Why is the reverse not true? Europe is just as popular a destination as the States. Is there a flood of Swedes trying to illegaly immigrate?

"Unity" and "culture" don't "make America great". (Nor does the US even have a single culture. There are dozens within a mile radius of where I sit.) Greatness is only bestowed by others, and, non-Americans have really started looking down on America thanks to its antagonistic travel policies that strain friendships, families, and business ties.

Not a flood of Swedes, because Sweden is a functioning state than can provide comfort and security for its people.

But 4 billion people live in nations where the average standard of living is significantly worse than in Sweden.

So, why should our Swedish friend Daniel need a visa and be subject to bureaucratic purgatory?

Wasn't aware that Swedes needed visas to visit the U.S, wonder why that is.

I am honestly not sure why Americans get to travel to Schengen without filing any paperwork while the reverse isn't true. I can show up in Paris CDG with a passport and get let into... all of Europe, hardly any questions asked. You would think the Europeans would get fed up with the arrangement and start imposing similar requirements reciprocally.

Ed: ah, they are a bit fed up at least https://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/news/us-nationals-to-be-f...

For what it's worth, visa-free travel is not really a privilege extended by a country, but an expression of their degree of trust.

Many European countries accept U.S. travellers without any additional filings because they trust U.S. passport holders, generally speaking (except the ones they have files on, in which case they'll already be following that up when you get there). The U.S. does not necessarily trust Swedish passport holders in the same way that Sweden trusts U.S. passport holders.

They don’t. They use a visa waiver program. The author was unable to make use of the visa waiver program having been flagged. As a result, now the author does need a visa.

If you're not arriving by land from Canada or Mexico, you need to at least have an ESTA, even if you're from a US-friendly Western country. If you're denied an ESTA (as in this case) you have to go through the regular visa process. This applies to Swedes, Brits, Australians...

Hmm is that why Canada is likely to deny him entrance as well?

Usually, entry cards (the ones you get on the plane before landing) contain something like; 'have you been denied access to a country in the past 2 years?' Or something like that. You can lie ofcourse, but...

That sounds like rumor, but Canada does require eTA (basically same thing) for everyone who's not from the US.

Seems to me that the visa-free program should be expanded to include more VWP countries. Not sure how much risk we'd incur from accepting Icelanders sans ESTA.

> US-friendly Western country.

Wouldn't that be Eastern countries, technically speaking? unless you used it as a synonym for "First" world countries.

They do only when their ESTA applications are denied, as in his case. ESTA applications in turn were not required a few years ago.

If you by "a few" mean "9".

Applications are open for YC Summer 2019

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact