Someone I know is going to US for further studies. I happened to go through his visa form and I can tell you, certain sections of the Non-immigrant VISA application issued by the US Department of State have the capability to provide comic relief, only if viewed in lighter vein. If taken on a serious note, they may well be an important requirement by US officials to assist during possible future legal proceedings in the most sought after land on earth.
Yet a question arises whether some of the application questions can be rephrased better, if not completely eliminated (with due respect to the customary US penchant for meticulous detail and precision).
Consider the following:
- Are you coming to the United States to engage in prostitution or unlawful commercialized vice?
- Have you been involved in, or do you seek to engage in, money laundering?
- Do you seek to engage in terrorist activities while in United States or have you ever been engaged in terrorist activities?
- Have you ever, or do you intend to provide financial assistance or other support to terrorists or terrorist organizations?
- Are you a member or representative of a terrorist organization?
- Have you assisted in political killings or other acts of violence?
It’s absolutely certain that not a soul would tick any of the above as YES - downright innocent and potentially guilty included. If such point blank queries are designed to help in authentic validation, do they actually deliver the goods? And are people awarded for their honesty just in case they tick on a YES J
The application form already has numerous validation questions like:
- Have you ever been arrested or convicted for any offense or crime, even though subject of a pardon, amnesty, or other similar action?
- Have you ever violated, or engaged in a conspiracy to violate, any law relating to controlled substances?
These are more dignified questions that prompt a YES or NO in relation to past track record, not subject to the applicant’s honesty in acknowledging an innermost desire or tendency to commit an offence, if indeed he/she happens to be of malicious bent of mind. Then, why the need for nonfigurative questions those demand an applicant to furnish an objective answer?
For the vast number of innocent people visiting US for business, leisure or education, such queries could be very off-putting and even demeaning. This is the age of user experience design where customer-centricity is not an option anymore; it’s an integral part of any endeavour which deals with people at large. Designing optimal, polite and self-explanatory application forms is one such endeavour.
It would be great if the US revisits the application form to make it user-friendly, not just in ensuring ease of filling but in safeguarding the basic dignity of the applicant. The mere online availability and filing of DS 60 forms can never condone the bad taste of such blatantly objective interrogation. Is not the question “Have you ever been accused of money laundering?” more logical than “Do you seek to engage in money laundering?”
The most likely argument in favour of the barefaced querying could, most likely, find its shelter in legality. Probably, the US authorities would be in a much stronger position to carry out prosecution (in their country as against deporting to origin country), if the accused is later found guilty on some count that he/she had ticked as ‘No’ in the application. Having said that, can’t this purpose be ensured through better and more courteous means? In any case, aren’t applications backed by comprehensive personal interviews and background checks covering education, conduct, civilian track record and reference check?
With the terrorism-prone environment of our times, the US government has every right to tighten security measures but should the vigilance of security disregard the virtues of courteous and polite behavior - both in oral and written form.