Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
Why I stopped travelling to the US and largely stopped doing business in the US (reddit.com)
267 points by asmosoinio on Feb 18, 2011 | hide | past | web | favorite | 186 comments

I have to admit, as difficult as it is, he makes a good point here.

I'm nowhere near as well travelled, but we do a lot of work in the middle east (some of the nastier parts too), which is a place you would imagine a white westerner would count seriously against you.

But, frankly, I've never felt safer or more welcomed in my life (apart from the odd dicey moment).

OK, the US is not terrible, unsafe or specifically unfriendly. But there are little things; some cities I just didn't feel overly welcome because I wasn't American. I'm in my mid twenties and ordering a beer with a meal got me some highly suspicious looks! Numerous times I have been questioned by police; for being sat at a bus depot with a rucksack (they made me miss a bus and were utterly unapologetic, grr), for being stood on a street waiting for my pickup (for about 20 minutes.. I think someone had actually called them) etc.

Don't get me wrong; I've met loads of really awesome, friendly and welcoming Americans. And mostly it is fine. But more than any other place I have been to you get treated with suspicion.

One of the more surreal conversations I've had while entering the US was one guy who wanted to know why I've been to Turkey/Egypt/Morocco so many times - he just seemed to refuse to believe me when I said that they are really nice places to go on holiday and that they are very common holiday destinations for Europeans. I actually had to explain what it is that I like about them!

Note - I'm from the UK.

[Edit: Note that I really enjoy visiting the US - the country is great, its just that the experience of getting in can be a bit odd, although I have to admit that the last few times were all perfectly pleasant].

If it makes you feel any better, I get more questions from US border control than any other country I've visited, and I'm an American, so it's not just foreigners they treat like crap.

Make the mistake of entering Israel with a passport stamped for an Arab country and you will probably put the US second :) Perfectly civil.. but a LOT of questions, over and over and over.

Back in 1990 I lost my passport in Turkey, got a temporary one at the US Consulate there, and then got it extended in Munich (where I was living at the time). As part of this they crossed out the 90-day expiration date, and wrote in "see page 16" by hand, where the consular stamp etc. appeared. A month later I had a business trip to Israel for a business trip and decided to continue on to Cairo for vacation. They questioned me for about an hour at Ben Gurion as I left the country ... and who could blame them?

Heh indeed!

We landed in Israel and I realised I had handed over the wrong passport (as we work in the region a lot we all have a 2nd passport for Israel, it is just sensible), cue face to palm moment.

They "detained" me for about 45 minutes, but I have heard of people taking longer (and, in fairness, shorter).

That's quite possible. I admit that the 20 or so countries I've visited isn't enough to say for sure that the US border controls are the worst, just the worst I've experienced so far. :)

Why do they you anything you go back in? I've never been asked any questions when returning into the UK.

The intriguing thing is that out of about 15 US trips only one had a bad border experience (and that was a work trip where we took our own equipment, which was understandable).

A group of us colleagues were heading into SFO for a work conference. This one guy who was a Sihk but no turban got asked what did he do for a living, so he said a C++ software engineer. The border guard then asked a few C++ questions like what is a virtual function.

I wonder how widespread programming hobbies are. Last weekend I was signing a credit card slip for the pizza delivery guy and he asked "Web developer?"

"No. But I do write software for a living, how did you know?" And he pointed to the "PHP Cookbook" I was using to write on.

OMG, what if he were a pianist, or a doctor?

Most probably he will be asked some basic stuff that pianist and doctor must know. Like, how many black buttons there are on piano? Doctor is quite wide category so that might depend on what type of doctor he is. Question might be about number of bones in human body, average weight of 12 years old boys and etc. Actually it doesn't matter too much what question is and it does not even matter if you know answer. It is completely possible that you don't understand officer's questions because of how he/she speaks - the most important thing is your reaction and that's all. Those people are trained to identify suspicious behavior and unnatural nervousness in your side.

Americans can be pretty suspicious of outsiders even if the outsiders are fellow Americans. Where I grew up, walking around town (instead of driving) or standing at the bus station meant you were at best are some sort of vaguely criminal transient.

Sounds like the start of Rambo I movie ;)

Have you ever been to Qatar? I'd have to disagree with you there.

Yep, I quite enjoyed it there. However, you do have to act appropriately to their (very different) customs or it gets awkward.

Helps if you are working there.

Purely curious, what was Qatar like?

Strange immigration procedures. Long list of banned items (don't even think about bringing a magazine with women in it), and the feeling that they could kick you out in a moment if you looked at them funny.

Nice place, and I loved being there, but I was always nervous going in and out.

Just out of curiosity where are you from / what race are you?

British, White.

I'm not sure it is really related to that, my colleagues (a mix of Asian, Arab & British looking people) all have the same sort of experience.

I think it is a product of being a) foreign (in general) and b) young.

Well I am not surprised that you are not treated well but I am surprised it's not racial. I am American and I apologize for what it is worth.. I think there is still quite a bit of lingering overreaction to 9/11.

No need to apologise, at all. It's not you that is making the situation and I honestly wouldn't bother apologising for those that are.

Problem is; it is only a minority (IMO anyway) and a fairly small one. But they tend to be vocal/obvious, and it is one of those things that doesn't take much to make you feel uncomfortable.

I don't think there is anywhere much that I like better than Manhattan! :)

I will tell another personal experience. I am based out of India and have been invited to speak at a conference in San Francisco. I applied for a business visa and was denied that visa because apparently I am young (23) and they have not heard about my startup (it is of course not an IT service giant like Infosys, TCS or Wipro) or conference (it's about A/B testing). Mind you: my startup is doing quite well financially and we pay regular taxes (had all relevant documents to prove it). Getting a simple business visa for US is so hard that from multiple sources I heard that founders of a lot of VC funded startups (with more than million $ in bank) in India many times don't get a US visa if they need to setup a sales team there or be there for some business purpose. Is doing business in US for foreign startups really this hard or I am an outlier?

It's, of course, frustrating and I don't know what to do about it.

My experiences have been as bad too..I am an Indian citizen and came to the US for graduate studies about 3 years back. Immediately after graduation,I was supposed to join a reputed company but due to some administrative glitch by the USCIS, it took me 6 months to get the required work authorization. I was barely able to convince the company to hold my job. Those were the most harrowing days. I came to India this December for vacation and my work visa application has been again kept on hold status since the past 2 months and I am struck here. I am again on the verge of losing my job. The worst part of all this is, the administration at no point does seem to care about letting people know what causes the hold up and the estimated time for it to get resolved. The lack of transperancy is so frustrating. Each day you just pray that you will get some update from them. And I am not alone, I know atleast 5-6 persons who have been held up for some reason or the other at this time. I really like life in the US and the opportunities it provides, but now I am seriously contemplating if all this is worth it.

It is worth it. Good luck!

You're just too much of a flight risk - they see you as having too little at stake in India. I've had some friends have similar issues (http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=851287). I myself returned to India after 8 years in the states partly because it was practically impossible to start my own business without a green card, aka 4 years of indentured servitude.

For future reference: Try to show assets you own (real estate, homes etc) that incentivize your return; Bring literature about your conference, maybe ads etc (they need to see that its purpose is not an immigration scam); if you're married or have kids, that helps a great deal. Good luck!

Thanks for your comment. I brought a lot of documents with me during visa interview but didn't they see a single document. It's true I am unmarried but getting married just to get a US visa is too much to ask for :)

I am from Belarus. When I tried to apply for business visa to visit company doing me an offer, i was also denied. I had bunch of documents with me with assests, etc, but officer just took a look at application and refused issue of visa. So probably, from countries like mine if you are young and do not have kids, it's quite hard to get visa.

The right way to go about it is get a good lawyer to represent you. It seems like an overkill but sounds like you can afford it. My valid visa case was rejected by INS and I was asked to go through a number of hoops because the lawyer had entered information in a different format. I changed lawyers and it made a sea of difference. Learnt the lesson that never skimp on lawyers. Try talking to Aron Finklestein or Alisa Klein at http://www.murthy.com/attprofi.html. They charge 200$ for a 20 min consult and will tell you what to do exactly. I was not sure if 20 mins would be enough to explain my complex case but 20 mins is all it took for them to come up with a strategy. Best of luck.

Do you truly need a business visa just to enter the US in order to speak at a conference, for a visit likely lasting no more than a few days?

The B-1 Visa is a Business and Pleasure visa.


Yes. How else am I supposed to enter the US?

We don't have some kind of tourist visa?

(Ignorant American here)

Only if you come from one of these countries:


or a few miscellaneous others (Canada, Mexico, Bermuda, etc).

Ah, thanks. I am embarrassingly un-travelled.

No, you're actually right. The comment above links to a list of visa-waiver countries, whose citizens automatically get a 3-month (IIRC) visa on entry to the US. Tourist visas are NOT limited to these nations, it just means that if you're from another country (like me) you need to get in before you leave to the US.

OP's original statement that he requires a business visa to attend & speak in a conference is just ridiculous.

Unfortunately, it appears that India is among the countries hit particularly hard. Anecdotally, it is noticeably harder for an Indian to get a US visa (business or visitor's) than an average foreigner (from a country where a US visa is required).

everyone is utterly paranoid


I have bit my tongue for a long time about this great community's slipping quality, but honestly, how does shit like this make it to the top of Hacker News. Flagged.

Any suggestions for how to get back to having hacker news on Hacker News? (And please spare us the lame "situational logic" response of how <anyShit> is hacker news.)

It's not just the off-topic stuff. It's groupthink. The needle on that has been buried for months now.

I'll give you a telling example: the insane series of threads where, in essence, an angry mob chased a comp-sci grad student around for nominating Wikipedia articles for deletion. "Here's the main offender!" "You're a drain on Wikipedia, a negative source of knowledge!" "You're an idiot!". An Internet-famous guy chimes in with a comment calling him "a gigantic Nazi asshole" (fun fact: this is after the guy took the time to sign up to talk to HN commenters).

Then HN dutifully mods up a blog post by the same guy that calls the guy out by name for "deciding he's the sole decider of the notability of programming languages". Nice.

Then a triumphal thread on a post about how the guy has stopped nominating articles for deletion on Wikipedia. The system works!

Why do I like this example? No politics. Still bad.

You can see the groupthink everywhere on the site, from the comment on any Amazon post that gets reflexively modded up for pointing out that Amazon removed Wikipedia content, or how Sony once installed a rootkit, or how IP laws are bad for America (I especially liked watching people downmod 'grellas trying to provide context and upmodding someone who, presumably, was not a startup lawyer).

I like that example, too. Well stated. My observation was that the whole episode reeked of something you'd expect to play out on reddit, but not the old-school HN.

Yeah, it definitely had a sort of mobbish feel to it. I've been a Wikipedian since about 2003, been in and out of the meta-circles, and have a mix of positive and negative opinions about how it works (but I think on the whole it's a huge benefit to accessibility of knowledge). So when something like this comes up in a community I'm also part of, I usually try to participate in the discussion. Not even really just to defend Wikipedia, because there are plenty of criticisms one could make. But it was hard to figure out where to enter into the discussion, and what productive result could come from it.

When there's a bunch of angry people wielding pitchforks convinced that Wikipedians (or some subset) are evil bastards who hate knowledge and love nothing but rules, it's not that conducive to calm discussion. There's just sort of a vaguely defensive, "well, it's not quite like that, you know most of us also think about these issues and have tried to balance the criticisms many people have of Wikipedia, and even some of the rules and guidelines I disagree with do have some reasons they exist, but nobody seems very interested in discussing any of that, so I guess I'll just mostly sit this one out...". To be fair, there was some good discussion buried in some of the threads.

I did write up a way-too-long version of what I would've said in the discussion: http://www.kmjn.org/notes/wikipedia_notability_verifiability...

(As a non-HN-specific aside: What's frustrating from the perspective of someone who wants to make Wikipedia work is that it seems most external discussion of Wikipedia comes in these weird mob frenzies, but they come from opposite sides. One group of people is convinced Wikipedians are a bunch of rule-loving fascists; another group of people is convinced Wikipedians are a bunch of anarchistic amateurs with a hippy anything-goes attitude. So the first group gets angry when a topic they're a fan of is deleted, and demands fewer rules; the second group initiates big frenzies like http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia_biography_controversy, and demands more rules.)

Thank you for not only flagging it, but saying something. Supposedly that's against the guidelines, but if a community doesn't communicate in cases like these, how can the newcomers learn that articles like these are not hacker news.

One of my own guidelines for "not hacker news" is if it's an article that's designed to "raise hackles" in the sense of offending one's sense of justice or "how things ought to be". This clearly falls in that category. This isn't "intellectually gratifying", it's gratifying to your sense of righteousness / indignance. None of this stuff is at all new to anyone whose residence is not located under a rock.

Oh, also, as an aside:

> And please spare us the lame "situational logic" response of how <anyShit> is hacker news.

I think of that game as "7 degrees of hacker news". The more outlandish it is, the more 'fun'. For instance, an article about renaissance Italy could be hacker news, because Paul Graham has talked about the style of painting in that time period, and has compared painting to to hacking, and since Paul Graham is a hacker...voila`! Although, truth be told, that sort of subject matter might at least be interesting in the sense of telling me something I didn't know, rather than discussing current US politics.

  that sort of subject matter might at least be interesting 
  in the sense of telling me something I didn't know, 
  rather than discussing current US politics
I am of two minds about it. Learning is important and essential to our profession. But does all kind of knowledge belong in HN? I would not say so. Where the borderline is I am not yet sure.

(Regarding politics, I would say whatever affects the professional life, scientific research, etc, is in; pure politics is out. But it's just a single person's opinion.)

> But does all kind of knowledge belong in HN? I would not say so.

I agree, but a scholarly article about an obscure, uncontroversial and off-topic subject is just not likely to cause much 'damage'.

The problem with "affects professional life" in terms of politics is that pretty much everything does, somehow: taxes, health care, bureaucracy, and so on. You could talk all day long about that stuff without getting anywhere.

Given that the US is largely considered the most entrepreneurial country in the world, I think this is relevant. A lot of people from other countries want to do business here, and this very well might be of concern to them.

This thread has sparked a large discussion and I think this is in line with the submission guidelines as being intellectually gratifying.


Wow are "intellectually gratifying" and "sparking a large discussion" ever not always the same thing.

Working in the tech field often means travelling to the States. More importantly, since many hacker newsers are American, you should be aware that setting up shop in the States makes it more difficult for you to do business internationally, that travelling to visit clients/customers/suppliers is easier for you than it is for them to visit you. So yes, this is relevant.

And flagging an article because of a little easily recognized hyperbole?

Thanks to this article, I now know that it is a gigantic pain to travel internationally with the US, that TSA agents are not good at their jobs, and that people get harassed for taking pictures sometimes. That's good because by trying very hard to express my frustration about these topics eloquently I am solving those problems. The Internet changes everything! Just ask Egypt.

Hm. Working in the tech field also means eating pretty much every day. I shall post cooking recipes....

Your are picking on the one time he goes hyperbolic. Overall, there are good points in the post, even if he does make that one statement that is obviously false. Just read it as "many" and move on.

Business travel to the US is extremely relevant for anyone working in hi-tech. Esp. when carrying expensive/electronic equipment.

Yes, and what useful relevant information did you gather from this submission? That immigration officers are often incompetent? That once they damaged some guy's camera? Let me inform you further: the airplane food usually sucks and US time is, annoyingly, 6-8 hours behind central Europe.

You're clearly ignoring the fact, that it's mostly US-only issue, and it doesn't have to be that way. We, non-US citizens, can't do much about it, and we'd like to get attention of US folks (who often are less affected), because they (you?) can.

I'll probably get downvoted for it, and I'd like to be mistaken here, but I'm getting the feeling that some of you get offended by critique, justified or not, of some of US politics.

> I'm getting the feeling that some of you get offended by critique, justified or not, of some of US politics.

I think many of us would actually make the same critiques.

But not on this site. We don't want to talk politics here.

I am not a US citizen, I don't see what TSA or US immigration officials' incompetence (which is certainly real) has to do with US politics - certainly not what it has to do with Hacker News.

>Any suggestions for how to get back to having hacker news on Hacker News?

I try to go to http://news.ycombinator.com/newest and upmod tech-related submissions once in a while. I should probably do it more often. Also, flagging stuff that could be on TV or Reddit.

Does the tech world live in an isolated bubbled insulated from the rest of society?

Yes why should tech people be deprived of my cat pictures? My cat is delicious!

I think since you are a well-known hacker and that a cat and the joy it provides you make your life richer, it would indubitably make our own lives that much better to gaze upon the adorable feline ourselves, not to mention be very much on topic (you're a hacker) and probably intellectually gratifying as well, if you contemplate how the cat as a species has 'hacked' people to care for them!

Who said anything about cat pictures? And why are they relevant? But what is pretty fucking relevant to tech and business in general is how the US's attitude to foreigners/visitors will impact investment and trade.

You know what I think should be off-topic here? Most stories about politics. Also crime and sports. Unless they're evidence of some interesting new phenomenon. I'll go you one farther! If they'd cover it on TV news, I think it's probably off-topic.

No, but a lot of people on Hacker News like to pretend it does and react badly when anybody presents them evidence to the contrary.

I don't think there's anything to be done TBH. In previous discussions about the community's slipping quality I was always encouraged by the fact that submissions stayed approximately the same. That's not the case anymore. And what that means aside from less useful content is that a critical mass of news users and complacent old ones represent the majority on the site.

By having a mental gauge of what's too subjective and not posting those, as well as not voting on, commenting on, etc?

Maybe there is some sort of algorithm that can be established to determine the level of subjectivity of an article or post with a 95% confidence interval?

Turn off rep score, then people won't post crap just to get upvoted.

Band together (e.g. private mailing list) with like-minded people and upvote each other's submissions until the culture has changed.

EDIT: Hey, that's the only reasonable answer to the parent's question so far, as far as I can see. I don't like the idea either, but it's a reasonable idea, downvotes be damned!

Why don't we just band together in a private mailing list and leave it at that? I'm pretty sure we'll lose the arms race on organized voting.

That's how it seems to me too. This was a very popular post, so most people here don't seem to share your views on this issue. Rather than blustering about how the site has gone to hell because so many people see travel as a legitimate part of startup life, and getting more hacks in the software to penalize the topics you don't want to hear about, maybe it's time to accept it.

There are about a 100 better sources of political discussion than Hacker News. I've only been here a couple years (lurking for the first 1.5) but I feel like the noise is really drowning out the signal for me.

So I have to disagree with you here, Jon. I care about politics, I really do, just not much while I'm here.

We shall see. Looking elsewhere in the thread, most of it is international people having a really great discussion about the issue. And it seems to me that they're very interested in talking about the issue and agree with me that this and related topics as a big part of entrepreneurship.

EDIT: downvoted. I wonder why?

You are getting downvoted for being so strident about something that comes pretty close to contradicting the site guidelines. It is not in fact true that popularity controls what stories are germane to HN.

I think you may think this nerdy Glass Bead Game of connecting the dots between arbitrary subjects and "entrepreneurship" is a compelling argument, but some of us have been here for many years and have seen too many different subjects --- Egypt! the TSA! Unionization! Ron Paul! The War! Red light cameras! Gitmo! Fighting in middle school! Peak oil! Corporatism vs capitalism! Apple murdering the web! Taxation! Censorship on Twitter! Global warming! Homophobia! † -- justified this way.

When you write a comment that acts shocked-shocked! that anyone would question your judgement about exactly how strongly connected a topic is to HN, you run the risk of making people feel like their intelligence is being insulted.

Keep something else in mind. There are people who vote on the front page. There are people who comment. There are people who vote on comments. Some of these groups overlap, but they aren't the same. Most HN'ers would probably agree that the latter two groups are responsible for the site's character more than the former. Which is a long way of saying: nobody's too impressed with the score on this article.

Next time you start feeling the outrage welling up in you about how people are bitching and sniping about stories that most people on HN seem to like, keep in mind: Paul Graham has been having to punch in manual filters to suppress some of the most "popular" stories on HN. He did it for Egypt and he did it for the TSA. The way you want to believe this site works is not how the site currently works. Thankfully.

Take a guess how I came up with that list.

PS: Because you have a software security background, I'm atypically interested in finding out a little more about you. I'm also a fast reader. It may interest you to know that fully half of the top 10 pages of your best-ranked comments here are political, and that's not counting your takes on DRM or how "bubbly" the startup scene is. Everyone wants HN to spend time covering their favorite issues. I'd love to spend more time talking about cooking and whiskey.

Thanks for the detailed response, Thomas. My perception is that the community here is very selective which rule violations result in downvoting -- there are some great examples throughout this thread.

In terms of on-topic, stories related to barriers that entrepreneurs face, and the difficult tradeoffs we have to make as part of working in this field certainly seem to be within scope of HN. Interesting new phenomena are explicitly within scope and there are some truly remarkable things happening at the social network level with the grassroots resistance to the TSA -- and with so many key players in the security and software engineering communities taking an active role.

> Next time you start feeling the outrage welling up in you about how people are bitching and sniping about stories that most people on HN seem to like, keep in mind: Paul Graham has been having to punch in manual filters to suppress some of the most "popular" stories on HN.

I'm not outraged ... depending on the day, it's a combination of bemused, disappointed, and entertained.

> It may interest you to know that fully half of the top 10 pages of your best-ranked comments here are political

Good to know! Sounds like there's even more support here than I realized for my political stories. Is the story about my significant other, AWK code, and Brian Kernighan still number one?

It's an interesting discussion ... thanks again!


If the story had been written in terms of a barrier faced by entrepreneurs --- as a war story from someone actually operating a company, as many of us here do --- it wouldn't generate the same enmity.

Also, please keep in mind that there are two factors influencing our perceptions of stories: first, the story itself and how strongly it adheres to HN; and, second, the comment threads the stories have been shown to generate in the past.

If somebody blogs about the challenges of being a Seattle-based entrepreneur who is boycotting flying (or getting harrassed at airports) because would you see that as on topic?

> the comment threads the stories have been shown to generate in the past.

Stories about the TSA have been shown to generate a lot of antipathy from you and your friends in the past. So is your argument that this should give you veto power in the future?

It's ironic you'd say that, because the opposite is true about me and the TSA threads; I'm the first to admit, I too took the opportunity to bay at the moon about the TSA on HN. I wish someone had called me out for doing so then.

I don't know what "veto power" you think I have here, but if you click around the site, you'll find a document that pretty well spells out what is and isn't on-topic for the site. The person who really does have "veto power" here is Paul Graham, and he's been having to use it lately; he buried Egypt, and he buried the TSA.

The second-most popular story on Reddit right now appears to involve Paris Hilton. Good plan.

And surely this must all be a part of my evil plan to eradicate "travel" from the topics on HN. I. hate. travel. sooooooo. much.

I wonder how much longer it will take before americans get enough to take a stand about this. I suppose it would never reach critical mass with flying because not enough americans are flying to care, which is why I can't wait for TSA to follow through with their plan to set up their nonsense at bus stops and subways.

Most Americans aren't seeing this stuff.

When I was married and my American wife got to join me in the queue I was in, and had to go through the same process that I went through. Well she was incredulous that she was being treated that way.

Until Americans actually experience this, nothing will be done about it.

I've considered that enough to think that a better way to approach it is to subject people to the kind of security that they subject others to. So that if Americans want to visit other countries that they are finger-printed, interrogated, X-Ray'd, delayed and otherwise harassed.

Then when they complain point out that what is being done to them is a reflection of what they do to others, that is the only thing I can imagine might make them consider changing their ways... and I really am not living in the kind of world where I think this is achievable since European border control isn't going to start implementing this stuff on a per nationality basis. So it's not as if I really think this is feasible.

As I've pointed out in the past, I also no longer go to the USA or do business there.

When I am forced to have face-to-face meetings with Americans, I force the venue to be in Canada at a location I can get a flight to that doesn't require going via the USA (tends to be Toronto as direct flights from London are cheap and frequent).

This works for me to the point that I no longer think about it until it appears like this on a forum and I remember that I don't go to the USA anymore... it's become subconscious. I just don't go to the USA because of the experience of doing so (not limited to border alone, but border is the initial impression and the worst).

Most Americans aren't seeing this stuff.

You mean most foreign-travelling Americans, who are a minority in comparison to the Americans that don't have a passport, as only 37% hold one [1]. Domestic flights are way less of a pain than international, if only because you don't have to go through Customs.

[1]: http://www.theexpeditioner.com/2010/02/17/how-many-americans...

EDIT: My American wife (I'm British) was the same way. I'm in the process of applying for a Green Card, which means we'll have to go to an INS office and both of us get our fingerprints taken. "Why the hell do they need my fingerprints? There's no way I'm giving them my fingerprints!" "Honey, they take my prints every time I come to the US."

You're trying to get a green card? Do you realize that once you get it you're going to be responsible for filing tax returns as long as you have it, no matter where you actually live and work?

This is precisely why I've been repeatedly extending my E-2 visa. Of course, by wanting that freedom, all my payments to US social security are definitely going to waste...

There is no way to claim that back? To be honest with you, I worked in the US for over a decade and I consider everything I paid into SS a waste. If I end up keeping my citizenship (unlikely), by the time I would be able to draw it would probably be $100/mo or something ridiculous. It could easily cost me much more than that in wasted tax dollars before I retire.

I wasn't aware of that, no, but I don't really have any intention of returning to the UK. I like it here. I get homesick sometimes, but usually it's a combination of childhood nostalgia and watching too much BBC programming. The Britain I see through those rose-tinted glasses is not the Britain that actually exists.

"if Americans want to visit other countries that they are finger-printed, interrogated, X-Ray'd, delayed and otherwise harassed."

That's exactly what Brazil is doing and mentioned elsewhere in the comments:


Try Sea-Tac airport. 20 lanes at the border, 17 reserved for American citizens, of whom there are probably about 20 on a 400-seater plane.

I've traveled all over the world, US borders are the most unpleasant. I'v had border guards in FSRs point guns at me but hey, those guys are just doing their jobs. In the US they go out of their way to be rude, lazy, incompetent and just plain obnoxious.

Or PDX, where Immigrations was so hostile that demand dropped to zero on direct flights from Asia and the airlines had to pull the routes.

Evidently it was better to simply book your flight to SEA, wait for those 3 lanes, then catch a separate flight south to avoid the pain and suffering at the hands of the PDX border guards.

Ugh, PDX. They treat Americans like crap on flights back from Asia, too. At least that was my one time leaving the country...


I'v had border guards in FSRs point guns at me but hey, those guys are just doing their jobs.

No one should ever, EVER, point a gun at someone unless they are prepared to shoot.

When a man with a swarthy complexion and a huge beard wearing faded camo gear shows up at your border and shuffles through a selection of passports before deciding which one to try, then hands you one that looks nothing like him, you can be a little suspicious ;-)

Then again at another FSR border I was extremely drunk and insisting to the guard that despite what my passport says I was in fact Dutch and they just rolled their eyes and waved me through... I later bought a passport in that same country.

Is my imagination running wild, or did you just say you bought a fake passport in Mexico?

FSR == Former Soviet Republic

Ah, that makes more sense now (I thought 'Four State Region'). So, what's up with all the passports? I wonder if I'm missing out (mainly because it could be handy to have a backup in cases where one has to mail a passport to an embassy to get a visa).

When the nonsense is done at limo stands and private jets, you will see a change.

No politician is deaf to the voices of "the people", but it's a lot easier to get into speaking range when you can afford a professional lobby.

It takes one phone call to speak to someone at your Congresscritter's office about this. They really do listen and, occasionally, even act on things which generate heat from constituents (ask any Republican who flipped on immigration circa 2007-2008). If you feel strongly about it, make the freaking call. (Or, better, write an honest-to-God on-dead-tree letter.)

I actually HAVE written to my senators about this issue, unfortunately I didn't even get the courtesy of a form letter in response - and they're both Democrats. I didn't bother writing to my rep since he's a Republican.

Set your prejudices away and contact him. You may be surprised.

Not speaking is a great way to not change anybody's mind. Also, your representative probably gets far less mail than your senators.

Basically that's the problem. It's estimated that there are somewhere between 3-7 million non-military Americans living overseas, but that's less than 3% of the population. If the US had senators and representatives dedicated to those people, we would have some clout, but because we still have to have "residency" in a specific state, we aren't really large enough to have much political clout.

Unfortunately most of the people who live in the US really don't understand the bullshit treatment that people get when entering the country. --It's not as bad for US citizens, but I still get questioned more coming into the US than any other country I've visited.

Part of it is the motivation to return home. I'm Australian, and we've got a fairly intensive customs procedure, but I could care less, I'm an hour or less away from home now.

Visting America was a different story though: I'm getting fingerprinted, and people are jumping queues, and the security is crazy... and all I'm thinking is "Why did I bother?"

Waiting for americans to care enough about the discomfort of vistors (relative to motivation to be there) might take a while.

I'm Australian, and we've got a fairly intensive customs procedure

Really? I brought a bunch of weird looking folding bike parts in a taped together laundry bag and got waved right though.

He means quarantine. If you had an open packet of oreos and some muddy boots, you'd still be there now.

I went on a rugby tour there from UK around the time of the last foot 'n mouth outbreak... australian immigration were very concerned of the mud on our team's rugby boots so they cleaned all 26 pairs! I'd never played with such spotless (and disinfected) boots!

What is up with the Aussies and quarantine? Going from the US to SE Asia, you fill out a little slip declaring if you're carrying snails or orchids, and if you say you are not, you sail right through. No worries!

Because Australia doesn't have many of the diseases and pests that the rest of the world has. For example, Australia is one of the few places on the world where bee colonies are free from the mite that has devastated hives the world over. Australian beekeepers are now exporting to the USA, and it's these imported bees that are keeping the industry alive.

One english settler decided, in the 1830s or so, to release a small hutch of rabbits so they could scamper around his property and he'd be able to take potshots at them for fun. The rabbits went on to systematically destroy most of the arable land in the country.

It's not only the agricultural industries. Many of the unique Australian wildlife has never been subjected to common animals from the rest of the world. The fox decimates native mammal populations.

I could go on and on. There was a fire ant quarantine breach a few years back and they literally hunted down every nest and colony that had occured and (I think) have re-declared fire ant free.

So, if you're travelling to Australia, don't treat it as some sort of TSA impost. Be thankful that people are there protecting the borders so you have some unique animals, and fantastic food quality to come and see.

Fun fact : I have a friend who is a dog handler in an Australian airport. The worst offenders are little old ladies of either asian or middle eastern origin. They're always carrying some noxious weed as part of an old family recipe to cook for their descendents who have settled in Australia. So if you see someone with a dog bailing up an old lady in an Airport, you know why.

On the plus side - they will clean your boots for you, free of charge - they do a fine job of it as well. Unless you're trying to hide your muddy boots, then you'll get fined a couple of hundred bucks for being sneaky. Best to declare your boots and get them cleaned for you.

We've got one of the most isolated agricultural systems in the world. To even ship grain to or from Australia you need specially accredited ships (I have a friend in Maritime law and it causes her no end in hassles trying to find these ships).

Because of the isolation, we don't have too many pestilence problems (gross oversimplification) and we want/need to keep it that way.

Australia is very stable geologically, apart from a bit on the S.E. corner, which is why it is flat. It is very old and hasn't had the evolutionary disruptions caused by mountain raising and flattening. The animals have evolved quite distinctly in their own niche. Foreign imports could seriously disturb the balance. See, for example, rabbits, foxes, cane toads.

Makes perfect sense. I guess I'm left wondering why smaller, remote islands don't have to do this. Places like Hawai'i, New Guinea, the Philippines, Iceland, or Japan. I'm no biologist, but my guess is that those places aren't known for large-scale agriculture.

The basic answer is: too little, too late. By the time they realised what was going on, the problems had already been caused. Hawaii has been devastated by imported plants and animals. Thousands of bird species have been lost, and huge parts of the islands are overrun with noxious weeds. They're fighting it as best they can, but it's a case of preserving what is left.

As for the phillipines - they've been trading with other nations for a long time, as have Japan. I'm guessing that the transfer of pests and diseases happened a few centuries back.

Australia is unique in that basically no trade of any kind happened until 200 years ago. There's been a lot of mistakes, but that's no reason to give up.

Hawaii does do plant quarantine.

They had a small problem with imported animals and plants in the past ...

They are mostly looking for foodstuffs, or anything that can introduce an agricultural or environmental pest.

I am a Russian citizen living in EU. I generally avoid trips to US. BTW, me and some of my colleagues, postdocs or PhD students, had to go through the infamous TAL (technology alert list) checks. What it practically means: 1) you are a citizen of some US "enemy" country, like xUSSR, China, Brazil or, God forbid, Iran 2) you have a PhD in any engineering discipline (true for architects, computer scientists, chemists, physicists, etc) or you work towards your PhD 3) you are going to a conference in US Then they will do a mock background check for long enough to grant you a visa one day after the conference ends.

It's not merely inconvenience at the border, but travel has become cost ineffective to him.

An expensive piece of kit lost that meant that I basically didn't make any money that month.


After 9/11 everyone is utterly paranoid and everyone from security guards to police, and even random passers-by, have hassled me. Claiming that I am breaking the law (I am not) or demanding I explain why I am taking pictures.

"I usually have to spend a lot of time being interrogated for my lack of a huge suitcase" he is bothered at the border. He is talking about the whole experience not only about the cost.

NegativeK Insurance is for things that could destroy you if you didn't have it. Otherwise, by the law of averages, it's a waste of money.

Unfortunately, in the US, lots of things can destroy you: Lawsuits from car accidents, medical issues, not having a car, et cetera.

Nice comment.

By the law of averages, all insurance is a waste of money. Insurance companies make money. They do this by collecting more fees than they pay out. In aggregate, they win and you lose.

The real question to ask is, "can I afford this insurance" and "is it worth it to me". If you buy a $250 mp3 player and the "insurance" is $300 and lasts for 6 months, it's a waste of money, because you aren't going to break your mp3 player twice in 6 months. But if it's $20 to insure your $10,000 of camera equipment which has a replacement cost equal to a month of income, then you should probably go for it. It's a bad deal, but $20 is the cost of a few beers, which is also a bad deal.

Anyway, someone makes money on every transaction. That doesn't necessarily mean you shouldn't be a party to that transaction.

No, medical insurance isn't a waste, because the cost of not having it can be extremely high, not just in dollar terms.

Happiness (100% x losing $1000 + 1% x having a free necessary operation) > Happiness (1% x not being able to afford a necessary operation).

In the US routine medical care costs less than the cost of insurance.

When you get a serious illness like cancer, the insurance company rescinds your policy and then you become uninsurable and die.

Insurance does cover the odd accident though, but they will fight tooth and nail over whether you need therapy to learn to walk again.

Insuring against small losses is a waste of money.

You've got to factor in the margin of the insurance company, but also the time and expense of claiming, keeping records, reading insurance terms, the potential for the claim not to be honoured etc. Better to self-insure - put that money aside into a fund and use that fund to cover your loses for small amounts.

For large losses that you may not have the capacity to cover, it is usually sensible. Where to draw the line depends on how deep your pockets are.

If you're dealing with international travel, you have to read the fine print and be worried about jurisdictional issues, etc. and figure the bureaucracy risk in to your calculations...

e.g. you buy your insurance in France, problem happens in US, and it turns out your insurance only covers you in france. Or you need an apostille-authenticated copy of local police report, plus a certified translation, yadda yadda...

I'm a permanent resident of the U.S., but even with the green card the hassles at the border are just nasty regardless of where I've been or for how long. The attitude is atrocious and I usually feel more like a criminal they've reluctantly had to let back in rather than welcomed back home. Green card holders also get fingerprinted and in some cases retina-scanned at re-entry. The nudie scans have only managed to create a small additional inconvenience for me…

(And I'm a white guy from northern EU. My sympathies to those from more targeted regions or ethnicities.)

I am Indian and not muslim but "unfortunate" to have been born in the middle east. Everytime I visit the US, I have an intensive check, basically running all my finger prints through an extensive check. I have to swear what I saw is true (which I find awkward, raising my palm and repeating what they say). The officers take my wallet, go through all my credit cards, docs, etc. I have to wait for about 2 hours. I once missed my connection flight because of the long wait.

And what is crazier is that the same procedure repeats when I leave the US.

I always resented traveling to the US too because of border controls. Recently I moved to the US and felt relieved that I do not have to go through immigration there anymore. Seconds after that thought I had the epiphany that I now have to go through immigration whenever I am going anywhere else in the world.

The funny thing is that I have never had a bad experience with US immigration. The only time I had a non-smooth experience was in Canada, before a flight from Montreal to Atlanta. An officer waved me out of line saying "I'm sorry sir but you were selected for a random security check. You can thank Mr George W. Bush for that."

The two funniest experiences I had was when entering Dubai and Sao Paulo, In Sao Paulo the immigration officer did not speak a single word of English. I do not speak any Portuguese. We quickly realized this frustrating situation and I was waved through. In Dubai I was the first person in line at the customs and not knowing what to do I just kept walking. The customs people just stood there and looked at me. I was already quite far behind the customs people, nearly out of the airport, when I realized that I just walked past the customs officers without having my bags or anything checked. So I went the whole way back just to go through customs properly.

I refuse to travel to the US because of how much hassle is involved. I don't starting my trips off on a sour note. The UK is headed this way as well, mind you.

Refuse? Refuse? You can fly to the US - some 4000 miles away in 7.5 hrs for the East Coast and 11 hours for the West coast. You then may have a little bit of a wait at immigration (or not as the case may be). I've gone through in 5 minutes and one time it was 45 minutes. Seeing as you state you're in the UK, you also eligible for the VWP which means you can travel to the US whenever you like.

Just consider what it was like to travel before the invention of the airplane, or the steam ship. Please appreciate that you live in a time when travelling the world is very very easy. And please watch http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8r1CZTLk-Gk

I'm not in the UK, you just assumed that. I just said the UK is heading the same way. You have to undergo racial profiling, in your own country when applying for a visa for both the US and UK, and then you're subjected to "random" searches and interviews when you land there. This has happened on several occasions to a friend of mine. In fact, soon after 9/11 everyone in his family's US visas were mysteriously cancelled, presumably because his surname is "Hoosein". His sister had to leave the US where she had been working for years and reapply for another visa. She has to do this every year now. Last month, my friend's employer (Sky News) had to supply special documents to the UK government to prove that he was actually who he said he was, and even then they wouldn't give him a visa. We had to get in touch with the local foreign minister to get him a visa. The last time he was in the UK, he was detained for several hours (and nearly arrested without warrant under the Terrorist Act) because he dozed off in front of the Israeli check-in counter. These aren't isolated incidents.

So yes, I refuse.

On several occasions I've had expensive gear disappear from my carry-on during security checks and last year a TSA agent dropped my Canon 1D Mk3, smashing both the lens and the camera body. No apology, but more importantly: I was never compensated.

That can’t be, can it? Property damage is property damage. Shouldn’t the TSA have insurance anyway? Is he stretching the truth?

"He who sacrifices freedom for security deserves neither."

Unfortunately I don't see this changing any time soon with the TSA unionizing.

As a British person I find it sad (and slightly scary) that the best advice given to him is to start carrying a gun.

Does he really have to own the gun or does he just have to declare his camera as a gun?

This. The GP got it wrong. The suggestion was to use something "sortof" gun-like to declare that the case contains a weapon, so that the TSA has to list (and treat) according to the rules for these things.

The one giving the advice said that he has a "starter pistol", which google explained as a gun that you use to start a race etc.. Not a real weapon. Others suggested a flare pistol (Dangerous? Sure. But not a 'weapon', but more a tool).

I find it sad that these workarounds seem to help and that they are deemed necessary. But "bring a gun" is not what they are suggesting here.


The article referenced, which I read, had this:

"Then someone has the brilliant suggestion of putting a firearm in your camera-equipment case"

Matt Brandon (the blogger referenced) had the genius move of using a starter pistol rather than a handgun.

However, it is still sad and slightly scary to me that the solution to protecting your property during a flight is to pack it with a weapon or something that looks like weapon.

I travel alot around the world. America is the only country where I am treated like shit when I go through the airport.

This time they took everything out of my bag. Spent ten minutes reading my diary! I mean what the fuck! Were aggressive, rude.

The system is an utter disgrace to foreigners. I wont be coming back.

It must be great to be able to afford to stop doing business in the US.

The US just became unaffordable, it was probably not a choice on the OP.

I'd imagine that a photographer doesn't have the time to require looking for clients across six continents.

Anybody willing to share how Schengen/EU borders are for foreigners?

I am a USSR born Australian citizen (I have Russian and Australian citizenships)

Last year was the first time I traveled outside Australia since 2001, but my Australian passport was issued about 5 years ago. So there was not a single stamp in it.

On my way to Russia I had a stopover in Amsterdam for about 4 hours so I went out to have a walk around the city.

The customs officer had a look through my clean passport and asked "Travel much?". We had a laugh and in a few seconds I was in Amsterdam.

I flew to Madrid from St. Petersburg and then drove from Spain to southern France to Rome and flew back to St. Petersburg. Well, when you drive from one EU country to another there is technically a border but nowhere I was even stopped. In the airports they generally ask you to open your laptop but that's it. The most strict one was in Warsaw - I think I had to take my shoes off and place them on the conveyour. And you walk through a metal detector, but if you put your watch and wallet on the conveyour it generally doesn't detect anything, unless you have a huge belt buckle or something like that.

Well, with a Lybian or Iranian passport the experience could be quite different I assume ...

What exactly would you like to know? I've traveled to about 10 European countries. I've never been photographed, had my fingerprints taken, been interrogated about my intentions. But every time I visit the US, all of these things happen. I should note that I'm a European Union (EU) citizen which gives me the right to travel freely between countries in the EU. But my American friends have only ever been hassled when they broke the conditions of their holiday visas (e.g. overstayed their 90 days).

Well, I am an EU/Schengen citizen, and I would like to know what non-EU, non-Schengen citizens experience at the EU/Schengen borders.

My live-in partner went home with me to Denmark for Christmas. The border crossing in Copenhagen Airport was pleasant and completely without incident.

What was maddening was the process of applying for a visitor's visa. In addition to forms, it required around 25 pages of auxiliary documentation, including her most recent pay-slip; a print-out of her bank balance on the day of submission; a letter addressed to the embassy from her employer attesting to her position, her monthly salary and her length of employment; a travel insurance policy covering the length of the stay; a round-trip plane ticket; a letter of several pages from me, accompanied by evidence such as photos, describing how and when we first met, when I most recently met her, the total amount of time we have spent together face to face, etc.

That was for a two-week stay over the holidays. Fun.

What countries are you originally from?

I am a Danish citizen. She is a university-educated project manager for a large international engineering firm in Thailand.

They are extremely paranoid of anyone "sneaking" in, especially from countries that could be considered "poorer". I agree, the process of a visitor's visa is insane. You are probably much better off if she just came as a tourist...

Also, when you are inviting someone into "Schengen"/EU, you are taking quite a huge responsibility because any and all costs for the state or hospital bills can ultimately be billed to you. So trying to see the upside of things, you could say they are just making sure all bases are covered.

On the upside, you won't get shot at the border - I'm looking at you, USA/Mexican border.

I'm UK/EU, but I've travelled around the EU with both my wife, and with friends, all USian (and all white, which I presume is still relevant in some places). The consensus has always been that the most difficult parts of their trip is getting back into the US.

We seem to have a 50/50 rate of whether they'll actually open your passport or not. Higher chances when flying in from the UK/US, lower chances when you're flying in/out of a city which isn't in the 'top 3' for each country.

The only question my wife has ever been asked, was leaving Italy; the chap wanted to know why she didn't have a stamp showing her date of entry. We had flown in from Zaragoza, Spain, and simply hadn't met any passport control. Deplane, baggage, and out the front door. We showed him a ticket stub showing that we'd entered the country less than 2 weeks ago, and got waved away.

The only noticable difference we've had between her (american) passport and mine (british), is that it is (or was?) difficult, verging on impossible to do an online check-in with RYR.

(to the original post; I don't travel to the US. ever. Mostly because I've put my 'status' in a gray area by walking out on a residency permit. You think it's bad when you're routine. hah!)

If you have a U.S. passport at least, my experience is that bored immigration agents wave you through. I actually immigrated to Denmark on a 3-year temporary work permit, and showed up at the airport as a single male in my 20s with three giant bags, and nobody asked me a single thing about it. I had the work-permit documentation, but they didn't even want to see it; just waved me through.

Supposedly you get more attention if you're Arab-looking, though (I'm rather white), and there can be visa hassles if your passport isn't from a western country.

I am an Italian, living in Brazil, my girlfriend is Brazilian. The only minor hassle she had was once in Portugal, when the officer asked her three times in a row what she was planning to do in Europe (probably because, from his point of view, she was a single woman from Brazil in her early twenties). It was an exception, as in my experience Portuguese officers are in general extremely friendly and professional.

She has also crossed borders in Italy and France, and was treated very well each single time; I am sure that the fact that she speaks Italian fluently and has an advanced level of French was a positive factor, but nonetheless she was treated just like any EU-citizen there.

It doesn't really mean much to me to hear that an EU citizen can travel through the EU with minimal hassle. Plenty of Americans have traveled to dozens of US states, some of which are larger than EU countries with minimal hassle, no fingerprints taken, no interrogations or passports required. About 10 years ago, Canadians could do the same with just a driver's licence (and it was reciprocal for US citizens visiting Canada).

On the other hand, EU visas can be very troublesome. I wouldn't recommend London as a photographer friendly place, either. Now, Hong Kong... that's a city/state/SAR with fantastically efficient and painless customs.

The EU borders are somewhat more formal than US state borders. So while it is not a good similarity to the US border control, it's equally unlike state borders.

Agreed. My point was not that states are just like EU countries. It was that lauding the ease of travel from EU country to EU country as an EU citizen is meaningless in the context of this discussion.

I'm a non-EU citizen living in Austria for the past 6 years.

I travel extensively through the EU (probably cross an EU border at least 10 times/year on average) and never had any issues except for 1 time in Berlin where the immigration officer asked why I have been in the EU for so long.

I showed him my Austrian residency permit and he waived me through.

The EU is a dream compared to the US/UK.

My girlfriend is English and I'm American. For the first 3 years we were together, it was impossible for me to live in England or for her to live in the US. Instead we rented an apartment in Spain and lived there with never a word from EU immigrations about my coming or going.

Granted, getting a visa to live there legally as an American is next to impossible. But at least in Spain, they just plain never check.

The EU borders are very professional and straightforward. They don't ask you personal questions or base any decisions on how you look.

Usually separate lanes for EU-citizens. In some countries, if those are empty, officers from those lanes may call you over even if you are not an EU citizen. If it's a passport they are familiair with and no visa is required, you basically get treated the same way as everybody else: a quick glance and off you go.

In my limited experience, painless. I'm Canadian, and I've been to Switzerland twice: first as a tourist, then on a work visa. Both times I entered the Schengen area via Charles de Gaulle, then flew to Geneva or Zurich respectively.

Both times my passport was checked in Paris... just a "what's the purpose of your visit", a look at the passport and visa, and a wave through. In Geneva, there was no border control (just a "go this way if you have anything to declare" or "go this way to the street" fork). In Zurich, there was another border guard; same deal as in Paris.

I'm a South African living in the UK, so I need Schengen visas when ever travelling to the EU. I have found the staff at the borders fine (have travelled to the EU about 10 times); I've never had any problems. Sure, they're not the friendliest, but I've never found a country that did have friendly border staff.

My issue with the Schengen scheme is the process of getting the visa itself. The requirements are a bit over the top, and it's expensive, think its's about £80 for a French Schengen.

My understanding (though as an EU citizen) is that it varies ridiculously from country to country within Schengen. As much as I'd hate to revert to national stereotypes... they're likely accurate ^^

The UK, however, is pretty well known for being rather strict with immigration procedures and border controls.

Fun fact: Finnish Frontier Guard is currently training their Turkish counterpart in border control / illegal immigrant prevention. I heard it yesterday in person from Finnish Minister of Interior. Geographically it makes no sense, but immigrants become everyone's problem after they reach any EU country.

I guess this means that Schengen countries have extensive cooperation and will adopt joint standards in time.

> I've been to Russia before the cold war ended. I've been all over the middle east. I've been to China. I've travelled all over Europe. I've been to Cuba and I've been to Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, Nicaragua. What all of these places have in common is that going there was a far more pleasant experience than going to the US.

Oh, c'mon, this sounds very over-the-top. My experience is that TSA and USCIS (formerly INS) are very professional and follow a strict protocol. The protocol may be unfair or not, but that's the protocol, not the professional's fault. In places like Brazil your entire trip is at the hands of chance: Most times you get a nice officer, but sometimes not.

For example: After an incident involving an American in Brazil [1], all Americans were out of a sudden required by the Brazilian authorities to get pictures taken at the Brazilian customs. The situation got so ridiculous, that at some point the airports ended up with 3 lines: "Brazilian Citizens", "Foreigners", and "Americans". In other words, Americans were singled-out from the rest of the world. Would the OP describe that as a "pleasant experience"???

I have had somewhat bad experiences in the US too, but that's not even close to the kind of stuff I (or close family members and friends) went through in Brazil, or as a Brazilian in Europe. In the US I never had any trouble, and officers always acted professionally.

And I highly doubt this person would get compensated in any one of these countries.

[1] http://www.cnn.com/2004/WORLD/americas/01/14/finger.gesture....

Disclaimer: I am a Brazilian naturalized American.

"For example: After an incident involving an American in Brazil [1], all Americans were out of a sudden required by the Brazilian authorities to get pictures taken at the Brazilian customs. The situation got so ridiculous, that at some point the airports ended up with 3 lines: "Brazilian Citizens", "Foreigners", and "Americans". In other words, Americans were singled-out from the rest of the world. Would the OP describe that as a "pleasant experience"???"

Why should Brazil treat US citizens any different, than the US treats Brazilian citizens? If the US harasses Brazilian citizens with such procedures, it is IMO perfectly OK if Brazil does the same to US citizens.

Why did this get upvoted? You're dodging the point of the comment. You're logic seems to be:

  Person1: Bad things are happening in the US
  Person2: Well, bad things are happening in Brazil too.
  Person3: But it's only fair for the Brazilians to do bad things
  because the US is already doing bad things.
The original article is griping about how bad things are travelling to the US, and how it's not that bad travelling anywhere else in the world. Someone countered with some examples of bad experiences travelling to Brazil, and then you responded saying that it's only fair for them to go tit-for-tat (which really has nothing to do with the original discussion).


Someone commented that the situation in the US is actually not that bad, and that it's worse in Brazil: "Oh, c'mon, this sounds very over-the-top. My experience is that TSA and USCIS (formerly INS) are very professional and follow a strict protocol. The protocol may be unfair or not, but that's the protocol, not the professional's fault. In places like Brazil your entire trip is at the hands of chance: Most times you get a nice officer, but sometimes not."

But that's not true. Travelling to Brazil is rather unproblematic for citizens of most countries. Only citizens of countries that harass Brazilian citizens are harassed equally.

So I agree that related to the original article my comment was off-topic. But it's very on-topic in regard to the off-topic parent posting (because from a non-US citizen's perspective there aren't any problems when traveling to Brazil, but plenty of problems when traveling to the US).

Brazil isn't part of the Visa Waiver program and felt that its citizens were being treated unreasonably. Thus, they began being rude to Americans. (IIRC)

Kind of an asshole move, but highly entertaining to watch from the outside.

Brazil has a well-known tit-for-tat policy in foreign matters. They will apply to a country's citizens whatever policy that country applies to Brazilians. So Americans were singled out because they singled out Brazilians. It's called having balls.

Except they weren't singled out. Visa waiver program requires each member be at certain economic and political levels. Countries like Singapore met the requirement and are included, countries like Brazil, China, and India don't. This isn't elementary school anymore, you expect diplomats to act diplomats and get policies enacted, not come up with some stupid scheme even a 10 year old could see through.

What the politicians should be doing is saying, "we want to be part of Vfw too, what can we do to get there?" and not, "the US gov't don't like us, so we won't like them!" Instead of trying to work closer together, this policy only makes the divide bigger. I was ready to go to Brazil for a vacation, but chose South Africa instead because of this silliness.

To an American, not going to Brazil has very little impact on them. They'll take their money and go elsewhere.

Americans weren't singled out either. Brazil's policy is the same for all countries: the same hurdles Brazilians have to go through in a given country, citizens of that country will have to go through in Brazil.

EDIT: Would Florida prefer that half a million Brazilians hadn't visited in 2010? It works both ways, you see.

Except, Brazil treats them as one issue when most other countries treat them as 2. Instead of going, "what can we do to encourage more Americans to come here?", and "how can we lower the US VISA requirements for our people". The former is an active discouragement, most Americans don't leave the US so putting $160 visa fee is a huge roadblock. The latter, is just misguided, it affects americans, but the people they should be addressing are the lawmakers and the state department, the people that actually write the VISA rules.

On one short trip to Brazil, entering at GIG, I was singled out, had my passport held and told I couldn't enter and would have to return to the US. The Federal Police told me specifically and precisely it was for reciprocity - some Brazilians had been turned away in the US and so they were doing the same for me. They had no legal reason to deny me entry, it was simply because I am American.

It's not having balls. It's having a temper tantrum.

Many, many countries have repricosity-based policies for these things, but the "repeicosity" is applied in a very one-sided way by all of them. Policy that pisses them off will be emulated and applied to foreigners unlucky enough to be from whatever country offends them, but unusually lax or inexpensive policies won't usually be up for reciprocal treatment. Consider visa fees. All kinds of places will charge US and UK citizens extra, but few will give discounts to those from countries with extremely inexpensive entry.

I consider this sort of policy to be little more than an immature way to vent at more powerful countries. Sure it sucks that it's hard to get a tourist visa if you're Brazilian and going to the US (or Chinese going to Japan, or Russian going to Finland, etc..), but that's due to very high rates of people applying for such visas fleeing and working illegally. The risk of someone from a richer country doing so in a poorer country is far, far lower. Any sort of "repricosity"-based response to this reality accomplishes little more than hassling ordinary people who aren't at all to blame for the forces shaping the situation.


  It's called having balls.
Having balls for brains, maybe. Instead of working on making the US border experience more efficient and human-oriented, they just make it harder for a selected group of people. An easy way out, I say.

You have no idea if they tried exactly what you are suggesting. And given that diplomats do exactly that, I'm pretty sure they did, and it didn't work.

> this sounds very over-the-top

It is from reddit, which pretty much thrives on over-the-top, especially if it's about how EEEEVIL the US is.

"In places like Brazil your entire trip is at the hands of chance: Most times you get a nice officer, but sometimes not."

In my experience, this exactly sums up travelling to the US.

>> all Americans were out of a sudden required by the Brazilian authorities to get pictures taken at the Brazilian customs

I'm curious why this would be such a hassle. I work in China right now and every time I go through customs, there's a little web cam there that takes a photo of me while the customs officer looks at my passport and stamps it. I think both foreigners and citizens experience it. Adds no time to the process at all. I even see my photo on the computer screen if the screen is angled right.

Unless Brazil simply doesn't have the ability to set up this kind of tech....

I also live in China.

1. In China the system is set-up for that. The little web-cam and the system are integrated with a push of a button, and the process is very quick. In Brazil they didn't have anything. They were taking pictures with off-the-shelf digital cameras, and I read an article saying that they did not even have a system set-up to transfer the pictures out! It was really something implemented overnight, clearly just to piss people off.

2. Sorry if I was not clear, but my point about the hassle was not much the picture itself, but the fact that Americans were singled-out and placed on a different line. This is borderline racist IMO.

Note: Brazil eliminated this stupid policy a while ago. I mentioned it just as an example.

Se my comment above, you completely ignore the reason for that policy.

As a Brazilian, I am well aware of the reason for the policy. Two wrongs don't make a right.

They have that webcam picture experience in the US too, at least for non-citizens.

I think that's kind of the point. The unpleasantness is institutionalized in the US, whereas it's random/haphazard in most other places.

Don't accept the protocol! It is degrading, the scanners pose a health risk, and it is all a waste of money with no benefit to security. America spends several times more on TSA that the entire FBI counter-terrorism budget.

I would say as a non-USA person travelling to other countries is quite pleasant vs going to the USA, his statement is not over the top.

I would the experience of a USA person travelling to other countries wouldn't be quite as pleasant as their is a lot of pent up rage against USA in other countries and when they get to meet a yank they have a chance to express it.

There is also a really interesting (scarifying-wise) discussion about apathy, existentialism and generally missing purpose in America's daily life, in the later comments to check out (scroll down 1/3, i.e. a mile).

Don't come to America. USA debt is $200 trillion. http://www.blacklistednews.com/?news_id=10626

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