The American Government hypocritically lambasts other nations for unfair trade practices while prohibiting fair competition in business by restricting business travelers. The United States is one of the most travel restrictive countries in the world, even forcing foreigners to obtain costly transit visas just to travel through US airports en route to other destinations. Although Americans publicly support equality and fairness, their travel policies promote the opposite results. Business has become globalized, and by restricting business/travel visas America is creating an unfair business environment for those unfortunate enough to be born in a country with a poor passport. Imagine how difficult it would be to conduct an international business when you and your managers are not able to travel to other countries to sell products, buy products, test products, or hire new talent.
Business, student, and even tourist visas to the US can be prohibitively time-consuming and expensive. After September 11, 2001, the US began requiring travelers to apply for visas in person at the nearest US embassy. While this may not sound like a big deal to Americans who are used to visa free access throughout most of the world, those who live in a country without a US embassy or in a large country where the embassy is quite far away, it can be an onerous process. Before September 11, 2001, foreigners could re-apply for a visa through mail, which makes sense because they have already been cleared for the original visa. Now, these law-abiding tourists must fly back to a US embassy to receive another visa. The vast majority of these travelers and businesspeople only have enough time and money for one vacation per year, so this process can kill their time allowance and their travel budget.
As mentioned above, the US has become so restrictive that some travelers actually have to apply for a visa just to transit through US airports. This transit visa must be acquired in the same onerous manner as other US visas. So, even if a traveller doesn’t intend to spend one minute outside the airport, he/she is required to go into a consulate and have an interrogation (interview) just for the privilege of acquiring a transit visa. In certain cases, travelers will be awarded only a single entry visa, which means they will have to spend the time and money to re-apply for every visa thereafter. Some of these applications can cost more than $300, which equates to a years salary in some of the world’s poorest countries.To make matters worse, the US has most of the airport hubs in the Western Hemisphere, which means that in order to travel to certain parts of the world, travelers have to go through the US at some point in their journey.
Many of these aforementioned efforts by the State Department probably seem like they cut down on illegal immigration, but the reality is that the immigrants the government should be most worried about are the ones who sneak in, not the ones who are willing to apply for a visa and come through the airport. These draconian measures by the US government have already had ramifications for America’s tourist industry. By forcing peaceful, law-abiding tourists to fly into an embassy for a visa and then making them wait in line for hours to be fingerprinted, eye scanned, and possibly interrogated at the port of entry has greatly reduced the numbers of foreigners wanting to vacation in America. This is in part why the gambling destinations in Macau have become so popular for Asian businessmen; and consequently why Las Vegas is slowly dying. The Asian businessmen who “built” Vegas, so to speak, have decided that it’s easier to vacation and gamble in Macau, where they aren’t treating like criminals upon entering the country.
In addition to the visa troubles, travelers also face a risk of being denied entry into the US even if they have a valid visa. Each immigration officer at a port of entry has the ability to turn a traveller away for almost any reason, which then cancels the travelers visa. In one notable case, two British passengers tweeted about how they were going to dig up Marilyn Monroe’s grave and “destroy America”; obviously referring to their intentions of partying hard in the US. The moronic Homeland Security actually asked the passengers where the shovel they intended to dig up Monroe’s grave with was located in their suitcase and subsequently arrested and deported the two Brits. This is clearly an exceptional case, but the possibility of deportation for trivial reasons does provide a certain level of angst among potential travelers.
Although travel should be seen as a right rather than a privilege, Americans seem intent on applying travel restrictions to some of their own people as well. In November 2012, Senator Barbara Boxer introduced bill 1813, which would allow the government to steal an American’s passport if he/she owes back taxes. The IRS would not have to prove that the American owed taxes, take the American to court, or commence any other action in line with America’s Due Process rules. All the IRS would have to do is file a lien. The good old USA also keeps a secret “no fly” list which contains more than one million names. Ridiculously, some of these names include young American infants. The government does not go through any kind of legal process to attach a person’s name to the list, and won’t even disclose if a person is on the list. Since there is no transparency or due process, all it would take to get on the list is to upset a government employee. As if this wasn’t enough, these maniacal politicians are now talking about preventing Americans who renounce their US citizenship from returning to the country of their birth.
The US may be the worst offender, but it isn’t the only culprit. On a personal note, when I applied for an Australian student visa as a St. Kitts citizen, a country with a highly ranked passport, the application process was more than 50 pages long. After paying an exorbitant fee and taking about a month to fill out the application (in my free time), I had to go to the one doctor who was authorized to do a medical checkup. This may not seem absurd if it weren’t for the fact that the Australian government requires all students to buy expensive medical insurance before entering the country. Therefore, the checkup is moot because if anything were to happen, Australian hospitals would make a profit it from it and would be guaranteed against any loss. When I finally got in to see the doctor, he did a one minute checkup and told me I had a heart murmur. At the time I was 25 years old and in the best shape of my life. It was absurd to think that this would need to be checked out before my visa could be approved, given that I already had the insurance policy in place. Nonetheless, I went to the specialist the doctor recommended and a few hundred dollars later I had my authorization. I later found out that this was actually a money-making scam in which the doctors send the students to their doctor friends who give them kickbacks. Multiple 25-35 year olds in my class were robbed in much the same way.
I finally got everything together and sent the application to the Australian embassy in Canada. The immigration officer in charge was extremely nasty on the phone and said it would be approved at some point. I had already been accepted into the outrageously priced business school and booked a ticket to Australia just before the start date. After several months I had still not received my visa and the date of my trip was soon approaching. I already had a business visa so I figured I would just go down to Australia either way and begin classes. I called the immigration officer to ask what was going on and she said it will be approved when it is approved and if I entered Australia on my other valid visa in the meantime that my application would be thrown out and I couldn’t attend my classes. How outrageous! Here I am paying $50k a year to an Australian business school and also supporting the local economy by renting a house and buying a car and they don’t even have the decency to process my application in time. The officer told me to cancel my ticket, knowing full well that she was going to approve it the visa the next day. I decided not to cancel the ticket fortunately, but one of my classmates, who was put in a similar situation, did. These stories were commonplace among my many of my business school colleagues who were traveling on undesirable Indian and Chinese passports.
The real point of this story is to illustrate how difficult this process can be for a person with the resources and time to accomplish the task. For those without the means or the time, these obstacles can prove to be unconquerable barriers. Immigration protocols have become oppressive and unfair in many cases. The beuacracy in most Western nations borders on outrageous and must be changed in order to allow free competition and travel. Americans and Europeans believe that their nations will always be the center of the world and control the global economy, but the global economic trend tells a very different story. As Western nations’ debt burdens crush their economies and the BRIC’s (Brazil, Russia, India, and China), gain prominence, Westerners may very well find themselves in the same travel predicaments as the people of the Third World are in today. It would be wise for these Western nations to do the right thing and accept easier immigration policies before the tables are turned.