In 2002 I had an incident at a US Embassy in which they accused me of being a drug dealer. Since then they have dug this up and used it again to try to make me look like a criminal in an effort to make me unwelcome in my current home country.
Alleged Drug Dealer
In late 2002 we tried to apply for a visa for my wife to visit the US with me to meet my parents. Here is a copy of a newsgroup post that I made Jan 7, 2003 and it is archived in Google newsgroup search. Aside from spelling and grammar corrections it is posted verbatim.
This is a direct quote to show that its part of historical record, and thus is unedited or corrected.
Date: Jan 7, 2003
I am publishing this partly as a rant, as well as to share our experiences with others. Even if you are not involved with visa’s or immigration you will likely find the situation funny, or more likely insulting. Please bear with me through the introduction. The first part is a bit slow, but the second visit to an embassy is the most amazing part.
First a little background. I am a US citizen who was born and raised in the US. I now an am ex-pat and live overseas. I am married to a Russian citizen and we reside mainly between two countries. We reside in Russia in the summer and a warmer Western European country in the Winter. We also travel extensively each year in both Western and Eastern Europe. I have lived outside of the US on a permanent basis for over 2 years now and prior to that made regular trips and stays to Europe.
One would think that an American married to a Russian could easily get a visa for his wife to visit family. However this story will demonstrate otherwise, and even demonstrate behavior and attitudes that are beyond
Shortly after we were married we visited the US consulate in St. Petersburg, Russia where we reside. We own our house in St Petersburg and my wife has a law degree. She was a partner in a practice and was also a professor in a law university. She has since sold her stake in her practice and is self employed. I am self employed as a consultant in the software industry and work all over the world, although mostly in Europe.
At the consulate we applied for a single entry visitor visa and paid around $60. This money is not refundable even if they turn you down. First we had to get to the consulate and wait outside in a line at about 6:00 am so we could even get inside. We waited outside in the rain for about two hours as memory serves me. Once inside we paid our $100 and filled out the proper paperwork. We then had to wait an other two hours or so.
At that point we were finally interviewed by a “pre-screener” who checked all of our documents. We presented all the necessary paperwork including my US passport, documentation on ownership of our house, my tax returns, her previous visa to Spain, and more.
After that we were told to sit down again until called. After some time we were called again to be interviewed. The interview took about 20 minutes and they denied her a visa based on the fact that “You might decide to
stay, and you do not have significant ties to Russia”. They then put a stamp in her passport indicating that she had been denied a visa. Through the whole time my wife and the other Russians were treated like they have always treated them, like cattle. Like people that are less in value. Its very demeaning throughout the whole process and very different than they treat citizens of the US and other countries who visit the consulate.
They told us that maybe after we had been married for a while they might give us a visa, but even then it was not very likely. They told us that we should apply for a green card which would give her ability to travel freely. But to get a green card you have to go through the embassy in Moscow. This involves a lot of paperwork, many visits to Moscow (a 7 hour ride by train each way), and takes over 6 months. But really that is not the problem – the problem is to get a green card you must plan to reside in the US. Which we do not. We do not reside in the US and have no plans to.
So based on this, the green card would not be issued to us, unless we lied on the application. Even if we did somehow get the green card, we would lose it upon renewal because we would not meet the residency requirements. It would then create a “black mark” for her. This information is based on information told to me by the US Embassy in Moscow.
So we conveyed all this to the Consulate in St Petersburg when they told us to get a green card. At that point they said “We’re sorry. We can’t issue the visa. Its not our problem you cannot get a green card”. I pushed a bit
and asked realistically what we could do. The answer was that I should move back to the states and after reestablishing residence contact INS and tell them that I had found a woman on the Internet, wanted to marry her, and apply for a fiance visa. Not only is this absurd, but this again would lead us to a green card, which we do not want nor qualify for.
All we wanted was to return to the US for approximately one month for my wife to meet my parents and other family.
We then waited about 9 months before trying again. During that time several phone calls were made to the consulate, embassy, and INS in the states. We were given the same basic answers each time. No we cannot give her a visa, get a green card. When told we did not want to live in the US we were told “sorry, nothing we can do”.
In December 2002 we tried again at a US Embassy in a Western European country. This time we had much more documentation which included: Proof of ownership of residence in Russian, a visa for the country we were staying the winter in, proof of ownership of a residence in the country, marriage certificate from the same country, bank statements with significant balances, my tax filings, passports, her used visa to the Netherlands, her used visa to Germany, and her used visa to Spain.
This time we were treated more like humans. We waited outside in a reasonably sheltered area unlike in Russia where they do not even provide cover from the weather. We waited about 30 minutes and were taken in through security to the cashier. Recently its been raised to $100. We paid $100 and they stapled the receipt to my wife’s passport. No respect again. Had someone put a big staple through my US passport everyone would be quite upset, but a Russian passport is treated as disposable.
After clearing a lot of security (irritating, but necessary I am sure) we were taken inside to fill out the visa application.
When called I went up to the window and was asked if my wife spoke English. She said yes and I was told to sit down. The manner in which people are interviewed is very impersonal and embarrassing. Instead of conducting them in at least some sort of privacy there are just a few windows in front of the chairs. Everyone else who is waiting for a visa is sitting right there listening to your story and personal details. This is very unprofessional and embarrassing.
The person interviewed my wife for about 20 minutes and denied her a visa again on the same grounds. This time my wife was in tears again, and left to cry in front of the crowd of other people waiting to be called. They again stamped her passport with a stamp indicating that she had applied for a US visa and been denied. To add injury to insult, they stamped it on the cover page of her passport over top of the text and passport information.
It was not on the page with the photo etc, but on the “Passport of Russian Federation” etc. Right on top. There are dozens of pages for visas and endorsements, and they choose right on top of the cover page. They might as well just add “trash passport” as thats how they treat it. Given a Western European passport, I doubt they would treat it in such a manner.
I calmed down and went to the citizen services window and asked them realistically what am I supposed to do. I was not even allowed to speak and was told to sit down before her interview, quite abruptly and rudely I
might add. At the citizen services window they were much friendlier and advised me I could speak with the consul directly since I was a US citizen. I said that I wanted to speak with him directly. I was then told that he
was not here at this moment. I asked when he would be back and I was told in a few hours. I told them that I would wait. He then asked me a bit about the interview and I told him that I had not been allowed to participate and had been told to sit down prior to the interview. At that point he went and talked with the interviewer and the interviewer agreed to speak with me.
At this point I was about ready to lose it, but I was trying to remain tempered and not have my rear tossed out by the Marines. While this is not verbatim, the conversation proceeded similar to this. I am not exaggerating any parts or adding dramatic effects. I am using my memory as best I recall.
Me: Why was my wife’s visa denied?
Interviewer: I cannot guarantee that you will return. You might want to stay. You should apply for a green card.
Me: I am not going to accept that textbook answer. I am a US citizen and you are going to have to do better than that. This may work on a Mongolian goat herder, but I deserve better than this from my own Embassy.
Interviewer: Well you do not have significant ties to Europe.
Me: I do not have significant ties to the US either other than my passport. I have many more ties to Europe. I do not own any property in the US. I do own properties in two countries in Europe, have business in Europe, as well
as registered cars in Europe.
Me: Look at my passport. You can see that I have not been to the US very much in the past few years.
Interviewer: I do not need to see that.
Me: Yes you do. It is a US passport and you are going to look at it. See this? This is an addendum to my passport. This is because my passport was completely full and they had to add new pages. Look (opening to page 1),
Germany, United Kingdom, Australia….
Interviewer: Enough Sir.
Me: No its not. My wife tried to show you this and other documentation which you refused to look at. You are going to look at it now. Germany, Poland, Russia
Interviewer: Enough Sir.
Me: Romania, France, … And continuing on for about 40 more stamps. I finally stopped after she got the point. Reading all of them would have taken hours.
At this point the crowd behind me was really taking interest. Later on my wife told me they were asking her questions like “He’s a US citizen and you cannot get a visa? Oh man we’re screwed”.
Interviewer: Well your flat is awful small.
Me: There are two of us. We have no kids. How is 3 bedrooms not large enough? How big of a flat do you live in?
Interviewer: The tax statements you showed me were from 2001.
Me: Yes, of course. This is 2002. I cannot file for 2002 yet.
Interviewer: They are US taxes. Why did you file US taxes if you do not live there?
Me: Because the US taxes on citizenship. I have to file those no matter where I live. Are you telling me that I should not file them? Please, can I borrow the phone? I would like to have you speak to the IRS for me. I am
sure they would love to hear that the US Embassy is exempting me from this.
Interviewer: Well I still cannot guarantee you will return.
Me: Did you look in my wife’s passport?
Me: Why not? She tried to show it to you. Look here, she’s had separate visas to Germany, the Netherlands and Spain. She returned on all of them. We also have a valid visa here that you have seen and spend our winters
here. She has also visited France and Belgium using the Schengen agreements. Why is it they did not give us any hassle but my own country gives us so many troubles?
Interviewer: I don’t know.
Me: Well you better figure it out and tell me, because I’m speaking with the Consul next and I bet he will be asking you. You better have a better answer than “I don’t know”.
Interviewer: Well Germany is Germany, not the US.
Me: What does that mean? Are you saying Germany is a third world country? Give me a break. Do you realize you just said that in front of all these people? Maybe one of them is German. Will you be willing to repeat your statement to the German Embassy just down the road? Germany is not a third world country. They didn’t give her any trouble, and neither did The Netherlands or Spain. Your running out of excuses.
Interviewer: What if you choose to stay?
Me: We do not want to live in the US. We are happy where we are. Why is it that you cannot believe that not everyone in the world wants to live in the US? Are Europeans inferior in some way? Why is this so hard for you to believe? And if I want to stay, I have a US passport.
Me: Do you realize the Canadians said they would grant my wife a visa no problem? They even asked how long we wanted to stay. It is going to be really embarrassing when we have to fly to Toronto and have my parents meet us in Niagara Falls because my own country will not let her visit.
There were numerous other arguments that have lapsed my memory. In the end she ended up reversing her decision and granting the visa. She had to alter the stamp in my wife’s passport.
I also promised her we would not attempt to amend the visa stateside. We have no intent to. We just wanted to visit. They issued the visa with a comment on the visa “Not permitted to adjust status”.
When we arrived in New York Immigration saw this and told us “This is your country. If you want to stay longer, all you have to do is ask”. This was without any comment from us to trigger such a comment. I explained the situation and they could not believe it. I told them thanks but we were only visiting. INS obviously has no idea how the consulates are handling visa. They appear to have two totally different directives.
We have no intention to adjust our status as I gave the woman in the Embassy my word. However in the future I do not wish to waste a day, $100, and a trip to the capital city for each visa. They should issue her a multi entry visa and be done with it. I will push for this next time for sure.
Welcome to the USA.
Chad Z. Hower (a.k.a. Kudzu) – http://www.hower.org/Kudzu/
“Programming is an art form that fights back”
When I asked “Are you saying Germany is a third world country?”, the interviewer replied something to the effect of “No, but maybe a second world one”.
At the time I was worried about identifying which Embassy it was. I no longer have such concerns. This event occurred at the American Embassy in Nicosia, Cyprus. Aside from this individual, others at the Embassy have acted in a professional, respectful manner. It does not however change the fact that in the visa department, this woman’s actions are not atypical.
I’ve been to American Embassies in Romania, Russia, Cyprus, and Turkey. Citizens Foreigners in these countries are very commonly treated with such disrespect.
My wife has been through the visa process for Cyprus, Canada, The Netherlands, Finland, Germany, and Spain. Some of these countries she has had multiple entry visas, or received multiple visas. I accompanied her on many of the visits to the Embassies and Consulates of these countries and was able to see how she and other applicants were treated. For myself, I’ve personally applied for visa several times to the countries of Russia, Pakistan, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia. I’ve had some interesting experiences at Saudi and Turkish consulates but during none of these applications was my wife or I ever treated in such a disrespectful manner, nor did I see others generally treated in such a way.
Having lived in Russia, Cyprus, Turkey, and Jordan, I’ve made many friends. Those who have had to apply for American visas have relayed similar and often worse stories to me. After publishing this newsgroup post in 2003, I received hundreds of private e-mails relaying horror stories about applying for visas world wide in American Embassies for mothers, wives, and other family members.
Many people have also written me to say that things have changed since 2002. But really they have not. I still hear stories and receive e-mails about recent incidents. The problem is quite systematic and widespread.
I understand the need for the visa process and for the Americans to be able to protect security. However none of this justifies the attitude, or manner in which people from poorer foreign counties are treated during this process. It was obvious from the start that my wife was no security risk, so using the matter of security in these and other cases is a false excuse.
We did in fact visit the US and return back to Europe as promised. A few years later we applied again and successfully received a multi-entry visa without any hassle. However still nothing has been done to fix this system or treat visa applicants with very much respect.
A few months later after we had already returned from the US, the police in Cyprus showed up at our apartment with a search warrant. I was actually in Germany at the time but my wife contacted me on Skype and told me what was going on, and afterward we spoke by phone. The Cyprus police had a search warrant to search our apartment for drugs. We were both completely dumbfounded. Neither of us have ever used any illegal drugs. Neither of us have even smoked cigarettes! The Cyprus police were very polite. After learning that my wife did not speak Greek and was home alone, they waited to enter until a female officer arrived who spoke both English and Russian. They searched the entire apartment. They dug through personal items, underwear, and documents. They were professional and polite, but none the less my wife was quite disturbed by the experience. They found nothing.
When they left, they left their business card and asked that when I returned from Germany I pay them a visit to chat over some coffee. I returned a few days later and my wife and I went to the police station for a chat. The officer in charge was very polite and explained that they had received a reliable tip that I was a drug dealer. I asked repeatedly where this tip came from. He said that he could not say. He did however release some information regarding when the tip was given, and showed me some copies of some my documents. He apologized profusely for intruding into our apartment. I asked him what would stop any one from just calling in such tips to spite someone. He said they only react when the source is credible and that a judge had signed the warrant. I asked what would stop someone from harassing me in this manner. He said we had nothing to worry about, because if a second tip came in they would now treat it with suspicion and require more evidence before simply acting.
We then left and went home. I had a few days to think about it. Cyprus is a small place, a mere 750,000 or so people. This means that people know each other well, and instead of the usual “six degrees of separation”, its more like three. It does not take a lot of asking to find someone who knows a member of parliament, or a senior government official. We asked many of our Cypriot friends for help. They were horrified. But one of them had a relative who was a retired senior federal police official. He relayed to us that it was the American Embassy without a doubt. He told us that very frequently they make calls to the Federal Police of Cyprus and tell them that people are drug dealers. He said that because they are the Embassy, that the police in Cyprus feel obliged to at least perform a search warrant, but in most cases turn up nothing. He felt that many of these calls were vengeful and had no basis in fact.
We then remembered the documents I had seen in the police station. And the date on the documents. The date was just two days after we had been to the American Embassy, and the copies of my personal documents that he showed to me were significant. Very few people would have had access to copies of my passport and the other documents. There is no doubt it was the American Embassy, very likely the interviewer.
We needed to return to the US and my wife needed a visa again. I think it was about a year later. This time we had to go to the US for court hearings. We were very hesitant to even visit the American Embassy again. I called and spoke to someone first. I do not know the persons name, but one person in particular at the Embassy has always been extremely polite. I believe he is a Cypriot American. By chance, we reached him on the phone and I recognized his voice. At this point I did not want to give any names, I only explained briefly that last time we applied for a visa it was very “unpleasant” and that the visa officer had been extremely disrespectful. He replied “Oh don’t worry about that, it won’t be a problem anymore”. My interest was piqued this time. I decided to push a little bit. He repeated the same response, with a little more emphasis on “anymore”. I was even more intrigued. I asked “What exactly do you mean? I must say that last time was beyond unprofessional’. He told me “Look, I cannot really say much. And you must not tell anyone I told you this, but all I can say is: She does not work here anymore”.
That gave us enough confidence to schedule a visa appointment and travel to Nicosia. We arrived with tons of documentation as before. This time they were polite, asked very few questions, and only glanced at supporting documentation. My wife was issued a multi entry visa with no unusual comments or restrictions.
I’m very glad that in the end this particular person was dealt with. However this type of behaviour continues to this day in other Embassies and Consulates. In addition, I have reason to believe that the false information given to the Cyprus police has left a black mark on my file in the American Embassy.
All of the events related to the visa and accusations of being a drug dealer occurred long before the other issues. Several months after returning to my home country I received a visit from officials who told me they were investigating me and that they have information that I was a smuggler.
We had several meetings and it turned out that they had nothing. Someone had made an accusation and they were simply pushing me to see if I would give up any information under pressure. I told them that I was sick of wasting my time with them and that if they had anything to “bring it on” or leave me alone. I also told them that if they were to summon me to meeting again about this issue that I would institute legal proceedings for harassment. At this point they seemed to be satisfied that I was not a smuggler and that I could have a legitimate case against them if this proceeded further.
I was quite irritated at the accusation and we made some inquiries. We learned that someone had seen me carrying a large bag off of a boat. We had been out on a boat with friends and there was a lot of garbage afterward. I volunteered to dispatch it and I took it ashore and put it in my car. That would not be enough on its own to warrant an investigation, but about the same time someone provided the authorities with some copies of a document relating to the search warrant for drugs in Cyprus. These two incidents combined to create the investigation.
I assume that the reporting of me carrying a large bag off a boat into my car was just some overactive nosy “do gooder”. I did it in a public place with dozens of people around and in daylight. If I was a smuggler then I would have made for a stupid one.
But where did the documents come from relating to the warrant Cyprus? The Cyprus government has no issues with me, and I doubt they know or even care where I am. It could only be again from the US government. I’m sure it was accompanied with something like “We have evidence that he MAY BE a former drug dealer. and oh by the way, the Cyprus authorities thought so too, take a look at this”. It likely was even passed unofficially without using official diplomatic channels as we know that has occurred as well.