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Tuesday, 4 September 2007

Writing my congress people

Dear Honorable --,

I'm writing because I want American immigration to be the best, most navigable process that it can be.

I've been studying in Europe the last couple of years and as I try to get student visa number three for country number three, I sometimes feel very frustrated. Some countries explain things very clearly, and some do not. Some seem to operate more or less at the whim of the official with whom I am speaking and others have clearly defined processes. Some are flexible and reasonable and others are legalistic to the point of absurdity.

The immigration process creates my first impression of what life in these countries will be like. It reflects the culture and the national character and showcases the strengths and weaknesses of their systems. The consulates and immigration offices are reflections of their nations - a miniaturization of what I can expect to encounter during my period of study.

Therefore, I would expect the American immigration process to be similarly a reflection of American culture. We see ourselves as friendly, fair and efficient and our process should be the same. However, when I speak to other students who have studied in the US, this is not what they report. The system they describe is so frustrating that some of them quit their studies there rather than struggle with it further. I feel guilty complaining about how I've been stymied in my attempts to get my paperwork in order, when the stories I hear coming from my own country are so much worse.

We have some of the best universities in the world. They retain their reputation by being able to attract students from all over the world. What's more, cultural exchange is extremely valuable for everyone involved. Those who travel abroad are made richer by the experience and those who study at home gain wider perspective from their foreign classmates.

By rights, America should have the best immigration process in the world. We have the best schools. We're a nation of immigrants. We've got a lot of pat practice to draw on. I'm saddened that it's not the case.

Please, let's make our consulates and immigration offices reflect the very best of our culture. At the very least, let's make it so I can whine without my fellow students rolling their eyes.

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