Not quite as long as it took Adi Shamir, but long.
On average it takes about 14 weeks to get a visa, but on occasion it has taken many many months.
I've done the calculations, the worst-case scenario for the full process is 32 weeks. It's never actually taken that long, but it's not been far off.
I remember having to explain to Microsoft that they needed to write a sponsor/supporting letter (for the US embassy) more than half a year in advance of any potential visit to Redmond that I'd be working at. As this was for DAC (Developer Advisory Council) meetings that Microsoft only scheduled a month in advance they found themselves in a dilemma over this. Thankfully they agreed, and their legal department would author letters that a meeting would likely occur requiring my attendance, but it was always a slog of a process.
For those wondering, I was shortly married to a US citizen and I speculate that this triggers some flag or signal that makes them think I want to stay there (I don't). I also have an interesting past, having been homeless for a while. Who knows though, the system doesn't supply answers. It's a black box process.
It's a nightmare process that doesn't end when you have a visa. On arrival I experience the joys of "secondary", and being sat in a waiting room for many hours before a 10-second interview in which they let me go my way.
Every part of the experience is a miserable one, always with the threat of an axe over the visit.
The vast majority of the time I have been invited, or had opportunities to visit, I just do not choose to visit the USA.
I had the dubious privilege of being sent to secondary upon arrival in Houston earlier this year.
The experience reminded me of old Soviet Union or something out of Kafka.
My wait was not very long maybe 30 minutes and after that I was sent on my way without any interview or anything, but those were some extremely long minutes.
I first made the mistake of sitting down in the "comfy" chair, which apparently was reserved for those poor souls who have to remain in secondary overnight or longer.
Then I noticed a sign No Electronic Devices Allowed, which meant no tablet, no e-reader no nothing. So better bring a book ("Consolation of Philosophy" perhaps?).
There were no progress or status updates or anything. I saw some misplaced NATO soldiers sent on their way quickly, while an elderly Russian emigree couple was berated for leaving US to travel.
Then there were people in the comfy chairs who had resigned to their fate and simply were sleeping or pretending to.
Again, this doesn't sound that bad, but the problem was that there was absolutely no indication on how long this process could take. No queue numbers no nothing.
I am supposed to go to US again soon, but I am extremely wary now.
What is the worst experience in the secondary that you've experienced?
I didn't know what to expect or how long it might take, and I wasn't as prepared as I could be.
You sit there sweating, wondering what's happening and why there is an issue. And you want to help, and offer information that might smooth the process or speed it up, but they're not interested in your opinion they will take their time to determine whatever it is that they are looking for from other parties.
That first time I was asked for paperwork that I didn't have on me, things stored in email were useless to me (I couldn't turn on the laptop, it wouldn't be trusted as information, etc), and I'd left most details in my laptop except for the hotel details.
It's the sitting there, not knowing, as hours drift by and you wonder whether your bags are still safe as they sit on the baggage collection belt. As you wonder whether the hotel has re-sold your room as you are a no-show now. Whether the public transport still runs or whether you have to get an expensive taxi.
And all the time you know you're held in this interim place and there's definitely no guarantee you'll be let through. So there's a fear that you could be going home and whatever plans you've made will come to nought, and that you'd be humiliated by the process as you'd have to communicate to peers or potential clients that sorry you're unable to meet them.
The isolation is the hardest bit the first time this happens.
I've never had a visa or entry declined, and whilst secondary can take hours (of sitting in silence as the fear touches everyone at some point) it's only taken a few seconds once I'm finally called and the staff are always polite and as friendly as you imagine they could be.
In preparation just print everything you could possibly need: contact details, meeting details, entry tickets to conferences, work schedule, accommodation details, things to prove you have plans to leave. Make sure that people on your contact list know that they may be called (they were my first time, but to my knowledge they no longer are). Take a book or two. And put a few snacks in your bag from the departure airport.
Nowadays I just read as peacefully as I can. Sometimes on a busy flight, if it's a large conference or event there will be someone I know also in the tech industry and attending something. So when that happens I find it can be a good time to have a chat and catch up with someone.
Secondary takes hours, anyone can deal with that. The real problem is the visa takes weeks or months. I've missed conferences, missed meetings, missed a friend's wedding. Real-life events sail merrily by as you wait to hear from the US embassy.
The real problem is what affected Adi Shamir's visit. Visa's shouldn't take an indeterminate amount of time to process, and I've also done it so many times that they know everything there is about me (and probably Adi too) already.
I thanked them and said I didn't.
(joke! i live in chile; the us embassy is famous for charging so much and doing so little)
This. I think it's the only viable solution today. Do not put yourself in a derogatory position, if you can afford it. Just don't go.
> In July 2013 I told the NSA-affiliated conference organizers that I was having some problems in getting my visa, and gently asked whether they could do something about it. Always eager to help, the NSA people leaped into action, and immediately sent me a short email written with a lot of tact:
> “The trouble you are having is regrettable… Sorry you won’t be able to come to our conference. We have submitted our program and did not include you on it.”
Similar recent story: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=6499744 'US scientists boycott Nasa conference over China ban'
On HN, gaining interest depends on many factors. Great to see the story finally in the pole position! :)
(1) Cryptographer Adi Shamir Prevented from Attending NSA History Conference
(2) How The Government Blocked An Expert From Attending Its Own Cryptology Symposium
(3) Adi Shamir--the "S" in RSA encryption--Prevented from Attending US Crypto Talks
Number 3 (this submission) is getting the exposure the story deserves, and the reason (I think) is that everyone on HN knows what RSA is, and would have respect for its inventors.
I think that in this case the HN renaming policy isn't doing the story a favour.
The title wasn't editorializing or linkbaiting. It helped inform those of us who didn't recognize Dr. Shamir's name at first glance.
Shame on the mod who did this.
Shame on HN for encouraging this destruction of value.
I don't know whether the mods still generally accept this, but I'd suggest it for such instances. And try not to intermingle bracketed qualifications within the title; appending them is generally better.
I'm not a mod, and I don't know whether this is (still) an accepted practice. So, just my suggestion.
(1) when really helpful; not all nor anything approaching a majority of the time
I've heard of RSA (and DSA) and come across it every time I've needed a key pair (e.g for GitHub) but never thought what the letters stood for. Finding out the name of one of the people behind it is news to me.
You might not know the names but they invented some important technologies that HN people use and respect (the original Apache server and the Python programming language, respectively).
It would be hard to relate to a story that said "Robert McCool denied US visa" or "Guido van Rossum endured US visa hassles".
I think it really depends on the type of work you are doing. People in research are used to cite other authors in their paper (and we even call a paper by it's author + conference/journal name, not by its actual title) and are thus more prone to remember the name of people behind technologies. It may very well be the case that in some other types of profession you don't do this association as easily.
"It is clear that scientists have been singled out, since I hear that other ‘simple citizen’, do get their visa in a short time."
Scientists get more scrutiny? What in the world is going on there?
In many lab outside of the US, we are told not to be to verbose about the type of conferences we are going to attend in the US. Words such as "security", "cryptography", "side-channel attacks", "fault injection attacks", etc. must be banned from the application. Instead we just say that we are going to a "computer science conference" or "information processing conference" for instance.
The visa applications of applicants involved in technical or scientific fields may require additional administrative processing. Therefore, applicants who believe they may be affected by this requirement should apply as early as possible.
The fact that this has very bad side effects on technological progress is important, but it's not like the government gives smart people scrutiny because it hates smart people. This behavior is brutally rational if you just look at their primary mission.
I guess it shows what the priorities are. Science? Dangerous! Skinny girls with weird clothing? Come on in!
Did you honestly think that's all they are doing?
They can do anything they want, for as long as they want.
My friend was in the US before he had to go out and get his H1B extended. He was stuck outside the country for about 5 months for "additional scrutiny". He got his undergrad, masters and Ph.D. in the US and worked in the area of chemical engineering + spent working 6 months in middle east on water filtration projects.
I am not a scientist and I can usually enter the US on the visa waiver program but I always wonder if the latest visit was also the last, you never know. And while you get used to the usual 1- or 2-hour wait at immigration, you never know if you get selected for a secondary check or worse. As much as I like the US and being in the US, entering the US is always very unpleasant.
There you go, those pesky scientists making the surveillance industry's job that little bit harder.
A tad more seriously: it's because of all those scientists of all the ages, that they have this situation where mere peasants can travel all around the globe, and make bombs or pilot planes into buildings. In the good old time, if a peasant tried to escape, he was eaten by the wolfs in the hoods, or killed by the highwaymen, so they stayed put, and the most they could try to do was to bump the armor of the lord with their wooden forks.
So it seems only natural to try to restrict them like that (perhaps it's a little too late).
Therefore it is not XHTML.
It's not even HTML. It's quite obviously just an HN comment and not subject to the syntax rules of of XHTML or HTML.
So, your complaints about the tag formatting are unfounded.
You are taking this far far too seriously.
I've been in your shoes here a few times, when I've posted something that I thought was obviously humorous and people took it seriously instead. It's usually happened when I avoided putting in a :-) because I felt like that would ruin the joke - and instead leaving out the :-) ended up ruining the joke.
So, peace, bro, OK? :-)
So by all means keep writing your low quality quirky HTML and when it breaks in the future don't come crying to me. I prefer keeping my HTML both well formed and XML valid. The fact that writing strict HTMLs makes it much easier to automatically detect errors and typographic issues is just a huge bonus.
To not do so simply hinders the progress of human knowledge, or at least, it hinders the United States.
There actually is a visa for Outstanding persons called O-1A: individuals with an extraordinary ability in the sciences, education, business, or athletics (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/O_visa).
I don't know if it's any faster to get it.
However, it would be pretty funny to see NSA organize its conference in Europe to evade visa problems :D
This sucks, sure, but there's always another way.
The coolest part would be bumping into other Roombas that represent colleagues from elsewhere (you'd need a way to distinguish from an ordinary, autonomous Roomba). There could even be a Roomba room just for them!
'DISSECTION: A NEW PARADIGM FOR SOLVING BICOMPOSITE SEARCH PROBLEMS'
Are we really making it that difficult for the smartest people in the world to convene and discuss all the new smart stuff they know with the other smartest people in the world?
However upon the last visit I really took offence with the security theatre (that was in 2008 mind you and I am from a visa waiver country). Another factor is that USA chooses to not grant me a visa under which I start a business in the US under reasonable terms i.e. without constant fear of getting caught and deported and being put on lists.
It became a matter of pride. Now I will continue to avoid USA on principle.
Then you're marched out in batches and electronically finger printed/eyeball scanned by more humourless uniformed officials before being deposited back in the holding area to await your onward journey. It was a demeaning experience and I wasn't even visiting the US. Technically I haven't entered the US, how do they get away with that?
This contrasted heavily to my previous arrival on US soil (Boston in 2002) which was pretty straight forward - visa waiver (I'm a UK citizen) thing during final approach on plane and traditional show your passport procedure at immigration and off you go.
Upon arrival in Auckland the only grilling we got was from a bunch of cheerful bio-security folks, with a cute sniffer dog, who wanted to make sure we didn't have any fresh food in our bags and that our footwear wasn't caked in dirt/earth (which could potentially harbour unwanted seeds or spores).
After my 2005 experience I decided that won't be visiting the US again, I'll stick to travelling in the EU.