Of Visas and China

As a Foreign Service officer who served in China from 1991 until 1996, I feel compelled to respond to the letter about how a Chinese father was denied a visa to visit his grandson in America, entitled "China friendlier, but not its people," Dec. 31.

For my first two years, I served as a visa officer at the American Consulate in Shanghai. Adjudicating visa applications challenges an officer to examine each individual's unique circumstances and reach an informed judgment as to whether the applicant meets the standards set out in congressional legislation. When applying for short-term visitor visas, the burden is on the applicant to convince the interviewing officer, as well as the immigration inspector at the port of entry, that the applicant is not an intending immigrant. Many applicants throughout the world find this requirement difficult to meet, and China is no exception. While it is regrettable in some cases that bona fide applicants occasionally fail to receive visas, they have the opportunity to reapply and present their cases to a different interviewing officer.

Seeking to place pressure on consular officers through congressional intervention is of doubtful utility, since Congress itself has reposed authority for making determinations to the visa officers, and we are a nation that respects the rule of law.

While I cannot speak directly to the author's father's situation, I refused many retirees, as I was not convinced that they intended to visit their children in the United States for a short period (generally the INS allows six months upon arrival with the possibility of extensions, which are readily granted). I considered how many other children resided in China, the presence of a spouse, the need for long-term child care by children in the US, etc. Furthermore, many parents are eligible to immigrate once their children become US citizens, generally five years after they have obtained permanent residency ("green cards"), and sometimes they prefer to jump the queue.

Finally, the author's claim that the US government excludes Chinese is completely unsupported given the fact that thousands of Chinese are granted immigrant visas each year, and the Bush administration in 1990 allowed all Chinese in the US legally or illegally to apply for permanent residency in the wake of the 1989 Tiananmen incident.

As for the claim that Chinese intellectuals evince "tremendous anti-America sentiment," my experience convinces me that the vast majority of Chinese have positive feelings toward the US. It is true that nationalism has increased in recent years, fanned by the government's propaganda apparatus. But the surveys in question can hardly be considered reliable or accurate reflections of deeply held perceptions. Otherwise, how does one explain the enormous number of people who line up to apply for visas every day?

As a long-time subscriber to the Monitor, I was disappointed by the publication of this letter.

Jonathan Mudge


*Author's note: The opinions expressed above are strictly his own and not those of the Department of State.

Make 'em buy an ad

Regarding the article "Americans Save More, but Still Below Retirement Goals," Dec. 17: If the Automobile Manufacturers Association and General Motors published a survey saying Americans are not meeting their car buying needs, most people would see this as a transparent marketing scheme to sell more cars and increase corporate profits.

Why is it then, that when an organization in the financial-services industry publishes a survey saying Americans are not meeting their retirement-savings needs, reputable publications such as the Monitor treat the results as news?

Wouldn't paid advertising be a more appropriate venue for promotional messages of this sort?

Eric J. Klieber


Letters for publication must include your mailing address. Only a selection can be published and none acknowledged. All letters are subject to editing. Mail to "Readers Write," One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115, fax to 617-450-2317, or e-mail (200 words maximum) to OPED@CSPS.COM.

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