A US Visa Denied, the Thaw with Cuba and My Arguments

Luis Rondon Paz

The US Embassy in Havana

HAVANA TIMES — Last Tuesday, I went to the US Embassy in Havana for the third time. The two previous times, I had gone with my mother, for her interview. Her visa was denied the two times because, according to the official who interviewed her, her arguments weren’t convincing enough to grant her a visa.

This whole business had always struck me as a rather mechanical process that didn’t explore any situation in depth – until I had the experience of being interviewed on this bit of US soil.

As a university student and aspiring academic, I was invited to the International Congress of the Latin American Studies Association (LASA) in New York. I was to present a platform that would contain more than 40 years of fantasy, horror and science fiction literature by Cuban authors. The novelty was that this platform would operate online as a digital library and would be available to all Cubans with access to the web in the country.

“You’re likely to get a visa with that invitation,” some of my friends, who knew about my plans in Cuba, said to me, though I was convinced a young, single, low-income academic like me would not qualify. That said, I decided to stay positive and, in secret, I would dream of visiting that beautiful city and of being surrounded by more than 4,000 professionals, sharing knowledge and, why not, perhaps finding business opportunities as well.

At 8 in the morning, on Tuesday, April 12, I and nearly 500 other people waited outside the embassy, to be called inside for our interview. It didn’t take long for them to call me. Once inside, however, I had to wait four hours before it was my turn. Everything had been smooth sailing till this point, until the interview with the consular officer began. The officer never looked in my direction once. It was as if they were dealing with an object. Below is the interview I had:

Consular officer: Are you married?

Luis Rondon Paz: No

CO: Do you have any children?

LRP: No

CO: Have you ever traveled to the United States before?

LRP: No

CO: What is your line of work, what do you do?

LRP: I am a computer engineer, an actor, a journalist, a photographer and a university student.

CO: Why do you wish to travel to the United States.

LRP: I was invited to present the results of a Cuban research project, which compiles some 50 years of fantasy, horror and science fiction literature from the island, at the LASA congress, on the occasion of its 50th anniversary.

CO: Who will pay for your trip?

LRP: My sister and a business partner.

CO: How did she arrive in the United States?

LRP: She married and moved there, legally and definitively.

CO: How long has she lived in the United States for?

LRP: Approximately 14 years.

CO: What does your sister do?

LRP: She is the director and producer of a television show in Nashville, Tennessee. She works at Paz Communications.

CO: I understand your reasons for wishing to travel, but you do not qualify. Have a good day.

I left the place literally in shock. Had I paid 160 dollars just to be put in front of a robot? That is how I felt he treated me and how he reacted to my replies. You have to laugh about it so as not to break down crying, I thought, a few meters away from the embassy.

How naive I’d been. I thought that after the thaw between our countries had begun, after Obama’s visit to Cuba and his address, citizens and particularly young people in Cuba would be treated differently at the US Embassy. Judging from my experience, everything continues to encourage the use of the Cuban Adjustment Act: leaving the country illegally, risking one’s life and never coming back.

And, you know what? I would like to travel abroad, get to know places, share knowledge and do business, but I won’t be immigrating illegally anywhere, no sir, I’m not interested in staying in the United States or any other country. I want to see the changes in Cuba from the inside and my work, as a member of the frustrated generation, is to transform society into something more efficient, less corrupt and more just.

None of this reached the consular officer, because, as I said previously, they make decisions on the basis of your replies and they don’t give you an opportunity to say anything else. As of now, I will refer to them as robots in human disguise. They never look you in the eye and their questions are very short.

That said, an important part of my reasons were shared with the LASA organizing committee. They may approach the embassy to process my case.

As a friend of mine says, “there are still a thousand walls left over from the Cold War and obstacles to overcome or remove so that relations between the two countries begin to be something more or less normal.”

Luis Rondón

Luis Rondon Paz: Activist, Queer, computer scientist, actor, photographer, student and apprentice journalist. Originally from Santiago de Cuba. I believe that people are life projects in constant transformation. I am consistent and responsible for my actions, committed to just causes and a lover of good deeds. Today I write about Cuba in exile, free of psychological torture and persecution of the Cuban dictatorship.


25 thoughts on “A US Visa Denied, the Thaw with Cuba and My Arguments

  • April 27, 2016 at 8:11 am
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    100% agreed. Especially in a country where $25-30 is the freakin’ average monthly salary!

  • April 27, 2016 at 8:10 am
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    Did you ask why? Did you ask what was missing? Can you appeal? Was there no way to do a pre-screening beforehand? This makes no sense, how horrid. I’ve met several musicians, artists, directors, presenters from Cuba in the US temporary because they were given visas….

  • April 21, 2016 at 3:50 pm
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    Have any of you ever seen the length of the application that someone in
    the US embassy must review before the meeting? There is a hell of a lot
    of work that the embassy must do before the ten minute meeting.

    There
    is strict criteria for travel to the US visas as still some 10-20% of
    them still claim US residency under the Cuban Adjustment Act even when
    they swear they are only coming for a 2 weeks visit. And, permanent
    relocation visas are limited to 20,000 per year by negotiations with
    Cuban authorities.

    The number of US consular employees to review
    these applications are limited. The number of Cubans who apply is only
    limited by the $160 fee. Still the waiting list for an appointment at
    the US embassy is still around a year long.

  • April 21, 2016 at 9:31 am
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    It sounds like you just want it your way. President Obama visiting changes nothing, you need to wait in line like the rest of the folk from around the world.

  • April 20, 2016 at 10:45 pm
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    I fail to see how US$160 can equate to the value of processing a 10 minute failed interview. That is more than many Americans take home from two full days of work and certainly no where near the six to eight months of full time work a Cuban must work.

    Many would readily make the connection to American societal greed. Governments of all stripes institute and operate the most insensitive monopolies.

  • April 18, 2016 at 11:19 am
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    Not true. Cubans don’t prefer Canada over the US. The weather, the lack of real opportunity, and did I mention the weather are some of the reasons more Cubans aren’t sneaking across a wide open border from the US to Canada.

  • April 18, 2016 at 11:15 am
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    Hahaha! Obviously you are not a fan. Guess what though. We do OK without you.

  • April 18, 2016 at 9:20 am
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    I know quite a few too. They’re a tiny drop in the bucket compared to the number that end up in the US though, thanks to the CAA.

  • April 17, 2016 at 12:17 pm
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    I know a few Cubans in Canada. They’re doing fine here, but they sure don’t like the cold winters.

  • April 17, 2016 at 9:52 am
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    Cubans would prefer Canada over the US?!?! How in the world did you come up with that?! Cold, remote and no CAA to welcome them and pave the way… Canada makes no sense whatsoever…

  • April 17, 2016 at 7:52 am
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    No they would actually prefer Canada but it happens to be further than 90 miles away. They have to take the closest unfortunately.

  • April 17, 2016 at 12:28 am
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    How is that statement ignorant or racist?

    Canada is indeed cold and there’s no CAA infrastructure to assist their easy entry into the country… which is immaterial anyway because it’s too far away for them to easily reach.

  • April 16, 2016 at 8:51 pm
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    “(Canada is too cold I guess for them)” Your just an ignorant and a very racist.

  • April 16, 2016 at 8:46 pm
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    Ask any of them if they want to move to Cuba. Go for it I will wait….

  • April 16, 2016 at 7:54 pm
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    Yes, lots of immigrants are naive/ignorant of the realities of moving from a developing country to the US, no surprise there and many Cubans are certainly no different.

    Thanks to the CAA (Cuban Adjustment Act) the US will always be the obvious choice, head and shoulders above any other country by far. No surprise there either.

  • April 16, 2016 at 5:40 pm
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    You forgot to throw the kitchen sink into your rant. Oh and by the way, another boatload of Cuban migrants just landed on Miami Beach. Ummm I wonder what they know that you don’t. Funny how no one is rushing to migrate to Cuba.

  • April 16, 2016 at 4:41 pm
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    I guess you are including Jamaica, Haiti, Puerto Rico and the DR also. Those wonderful havens for safety and equality across the board. Americans have done wonders for these countries.. Making them mini versions of the wonderful US of A.

  • April 16, 2016 at 4:38 pm
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    Sorry. I should not have put the ? Behind the USA. Of course it’s the preferred country. (Canada is too cold I guess for them). My point is : for them not to expect life is wonderful. Maybe the Latinos are more savvy this way than those coming from other parts of the world. Just that the immigrants seem so surprised that many of us put in the 35-60 hour work weeks, pay these high taxes, not all of us own houses, big SUVs…… And are at risk for cancers, diabetes, Alzheimer’s , and die young. My other point was freedom comes at a cost. Your neighborhood kid gets shot in a drive by shooting, the kid next door kills herself after cyber bullying, cholesterol, blood pressure and diabetes show up in more kids than ever. . And on and on. Canada is far from perfect too but we are trying. The politicians tend to work more together on these societal evils.

  • April 16, 2016 at 3:41 pm
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    That sounds 90 miles north better then most of Latin America

  • April 16, 2016 at 3:38 pm
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    I don’t get how having them pay for the interview is robbery.

    You’d rather rob US taxpayers instead? I don’t follow your reasoning…

  • April 16, 2016 at 3:36 pm
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    “… Most preferred country for immigrants?…”

    Yes, it is. Which completely negates your entire rant.

  • April 16, 2016 at 12:24 pm
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    Most preferred country for immigrants? The USA ? Where 1 out of 3 carry guns and in some states there it is the right of the person to shoot first , ask later. Yes do go, to where the suicide rates , drugged up kids, texting while driving deaths , mass shootings , highly paid sports figures sow their illegitimate seeds willie nilly or cheat their way to the top , yes go…. To where politicians’ behavior would be laughable if it was not so pitiful, to where child abuse is rampant and role models from high soldiers to actors to athletes and politicians go for the greed, the lust and find themselves muddied in public scorn. Go to the States and dont’ bother to complain then when you find it’s not the streets of gold and the kind of people that you imagined. Don’t be taken aback by the nudity, the crass mentality of those who bathe in the limelight of the Instagram fame, the lack of respect for elders, the materialism, and oh yes, we can’t forget the red necks with their AKs and beer not to mention beer bellies and monster trucks. Yes, you all have been swayed by those commercials, your cousins in the states saying how big the sugary drinks are, how fat I am getting, hey I have a lot of guns at home, I am driving a big gas guzzler (don’t ask them their credit card debts) … Go ahead and immigrate there, just be prepared when the time comes to sell your soul for the freedoms offered.

  • April 16, 2016 at 9:34 am
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    The $160 fee is associated with the processing costs. Look at it from my perspective as a US citizen. If you want to come to my country, I want my government to know who you are and what your intentions are BEFORE we let you into the country. This vetting process is not, nor should it be, a rubber-stamp for entering the US. I certainly don’t want to pay for a foreigner’s screening. Why should I? The screening takes place whether or no the applicant is approved. Therefore, the fee is non-refundable.

  • April 16, 2016 at 9:17 am
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    Then limit the number of visas and don’t rob them of the $160.00.

  • April 15, 2016 at 2:27 pm
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    I hear these stories all the time. What many Cubans fail to consider is the US is the world’s most preferred country for immigrants. Our immigration officials simply have to say no to millions of good, hard-working people. Otherwise, we would be overrun by the even greater millions of foreigners who legally apply for visas every year. Unfortunately, sometimes its simple math.

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