The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

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The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

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Morgan Shiver, Contributor • June 20, 2024

Student suffers ‘bureaucratic torture’ to obtain re-entry visa


I am a Ph.D. candidate in mechanical engineering of Lyle School of Engineering and left SMU last December to visit my family in Iran after four years. 


On the way to Iran, I had a visa interview in the U.S. Consulate General in Dubai for a re-entry visa since Iranian students hold single-entry visa. The procedure for obtaining the re-entry visa procedure comes with a lot of uncertainties and complexities that most Iranian students don’t take the risk to leave the States unless they have to. Being far from family and friends for a long time was enough for me to take the risk and buy a flight ticket to Iran.  


   Everything went well in the visa interview, and I was granted the visa but had to wait for further “administrative processing” which usually takes 60 days according to the website of the U.S. Department of State. I took this number as a reference for the visa waiting time and planned my trip based on that. 


Two months, the average visa waiting time, quickly passed but the administrative processing of my visa called “clearance” was still going. I was assigned to be a teaching assistant for a lab in the engineering department for spring semester and further delay meant cancelling my classes. 


One hundred and fifty days passed but no news from the visa. During this time, I missed the spring semester, lost TA classes, delayed graduation and paid penalties to delay the return ticket. 


In May, I was notified that my visa was ready for pick up. I sent my passport to the consulate to get it back with the stamped visa. I said farewells to family and friends, confirmed the return ticket and packed my luggage. 


After few days, my passport returned but without the visa! I was confused and speechless thinking about all arrangements I had made for coming back to the U.S. 


The U.S. consulate response to this  incident saying, “Unfortunately, in some cases, new information will require us to return the passport to the applicant without the visa because an additional check is required. Individuals whose names are extremely common are also more likely to experience this problem.” 


I had to wait for another period of time-wasting bureaucracy. The question that plagued my mind was, “What can this new information be?”


Of course, I didn’t believe the response of the consulate that my name caused the trouble since the next incidents proved otherwise. 


After one month, I was informed that I should ask my advisor to provide a letter describing my research goals, applications, technologies used as well as the funding agency. So, my research topic was the problem, not my name. 


The U.S. Consulate asked about this letter six months after the interview where I had provided my recent CV and research abstract during the interview. I was wondering why the consulate didn’t ask this information right after the interview. 


After sending the research description letter to the consulate, three weeks later the good news appeared on my visa status webpage. My visa was ready for pick up. I sent my passport to the consulate like the previous time, but my passport returned without the visa again! 


I was running out the patience. I started to feel like I was riding an emotional roller coaster whose driver was the U.S. Consulate General in Dubai, and apparently this driver was not responsible at all.


Sending the passport to the consulate, flying to Dubai and staying there for couple of days was  costly and time-consuming. However, the consulate indicated that it was insensitive to these physical and emotional hassles that I experienced.


I was familiar with the bureaucracy and paper work, which are common in governmental offices, but this “bureaucratic torture” was something I never  before experienced in my life neither in Iran nor in the U.S. Finally, after nine months and nine days, I received my re-entry visa at the end of September, one month into the fall semester.


My visa case clearly shows the irregularities and misconducts that were done during my visa review and further highlights the need for revising the re-entry visa regulations. If not all, most of re-entry visa applications are approved. This is a sure sign that these visa reviews are unnecessary. The repeated checks of the same people with the same conditions does not serve any security purpose and just alienates people from their friends and family and distracts the consular attention from people who may wish ill for the U.S.


Ali Moslemi is a Ph.D. candidate in mechanical engineering. He can be reached for comments or questions at [email protected].


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