Ania and I want to visit U.S. later this year, and planning is well under way. This meant getting an entry visa for Ania, as all Polish citizens require one to enter U.S. This is not quite where my anger lies, but it’s a good start.
Poland is one of only five European countries left that still need an entry visa to United States. Why? Nobody knows. All of our neighboring countries don’t need one. We’re talking simply vacationing of course. Nothing more. Germans, Czechs, even freakin’ Lithuanian’s don’t need a visa, and most people don’t even know where Lithuania is. But Poland, the largest Slavic ethnic group in United States that stepped onto the U.S. soil as early as 1608, whose generals fought in the U.S. Revolutionary War and whose army is one of the largest in supporting Unites States in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars…no, we still have to ask permission to visit. For comparison, Lithuania’s highest total of onsite soldiers during the Operation Enduring Freedom was 295 to Poland’s 2,600! No thank you required America, just forget them visas!
Ohh, and the other four countries that need a visa? Bulgaria, Romania, Cyprus, and Croatia. Such great company to be in considering the rich Polish-American history our countries have shared.
But OK. Nevermind the fact that every single Polish president since the Berlin wall fell has asked to forgo visas, and nevermind that every single American president since the wall came down has promised to push that issue forward. The fact remains we still need to get one. So here’s how.
First, you apply for a visa via an embassy web site. You answer a whole lot of questions, fill in a whole lot of information, and after a whopping $160 dollar fee!!!! you get a chance to ask for a visa. Got that? Only after paying $160 US Dollars, you can schedule a face to face meeting to ask/beg for a visa to travel to U.S.
Second, you travel to one of two places in Poland, Warsaw or Krakow, where the U.S. embassy or a U.S. consulate is located. For us it was a 150 mile trip to Krakow.
Third, you walk up to the consulate with document in hand with a specific date and time printed on it, only to find a sign on the door that says “Consulate employee will meet you on the other side of the street”. Is this a game? A riddle maybe? We look over, nothing but a clumsy restaurant…but wait, there are people waiting there so we ask. Sure enough every few minutes someone walks out of the embassy, calls out a timestamp, and if your appointment matches the time you get to rush a bunch of other people to get a little yellow ticket from that person that…wait for it… grants you a place in another line along the embassy door. As if the whole thing can’t be done any other civilized way. The California DMV has figured out an appointment system and getting a license renewed in a state with a population of 38.8million takes 15 minutes flat, but here, at the federal level, your appointment time means nothing. But I digress.
Four, after getting into the door-line with a yellow ticket in hand, you get called one by one to enter, get security screened (no phones allowed inside), and then…more lines. Inside, someone checks your documentation, makes sure you have a valid ID and a photograph, you grab a ticket, and wait for your number to be called by one of four or five clerks at the window.
Five, you walk up to the clerk and plead your case to be granted U.S. entry. And this can’t really be written in any other way. Without ever asking the question, the person behind the glass is basically saying “tell me why I should let you into United States”. As if streets of Los Angeles were paved with gold, and all you have to do is bend down to pick at it for a while to be rich for the rest of your life. And I’m angry. I’m angry because I am a U.S. citizen and my family jumped through a lot of these hoops back in the day to get this far. But this is 2015 we’re talking. A modern fucken time where more people than ever are actually shedding their U.S. citizenships, and we’re still pleading for permission to spend 3 weeks and thousands of dollars on your land?
Six, the guy behind the glass is an asshole. Most questions the dude of some Indian/Pakistani descent was asking were asked in a rude manner and mostly about me, not Ania. He then concluded that while he believes we’re traveling for work, he’s gonna grant a visa anyway. Ohh thank you your royal highness, but here’s the thing, if we wanted to work in the U.S., we could, and I have. Legally, with a U.S. passport and social security card in hand, both of which I can now get for my wife. So why act like a total dick to a person who could technically very easily become a citizen herself? Ohh, and by the way, if the person behind the glass doesn’t grant you the visa because I don’t know, they didn’t have their bagel for breakfast that morning, that $160 dollars you paid?…is gone. Get the visa or don’t get the visa, $160 is just for that face to face meeting.
Seven, you leave your passport at the embassy and wait for the visa to be stamped in. The passport arrived two days later, and I do admit that was freakin fast. But there’s another catch. We opened the passport to the visa page and boom, there was a piece of paper saying that “Hey, just cause you got a visa don’t mean you’re in just yet, we can still turn you back at the airport”.
Yeah, all this in 2015. This entire process beside being totally ridiculous is actually pretty humiliating. I mean what else can you call a process where you ask permission to enter, they grant you that permission after extensive emotional and financial cost, you pay $1,200 for a plane ticket, but then someone at the U.S. airport didn’t have their bagel that morning so now you get to go back where you came from.
My only question is: why? Why does Poland still need to go through all this just to see the freakin’ Grand Canyon, ride Disney’s Space Mountain and see Shamu before they close down Sea World for good. What have Lithuanian’s done right to be granted that privilege that Poles still haven’t figured out. Someone please explain.
PS. Photo at the top is not mine…no photos allowed anywhere near. There is police patrol car onsite with an actual machine gun at all times, judging from Google image search, enforcing that rule.