Do Clothes Really Make the Man (or Woman)? Have Visa, Will Issue (Not!)

An amusing yet revealing story about Doan Nguyen Duc, who is on track to become Vietnam’s first billionaire with a net worth of VND 12.22 trillion ($683.5 million) in current stock holdings.  An excerpt from a VietnamNet story about Mr. Duc and wealth acquisition in Vietnam:

Jeans and a T-shirt

In faded old blue jeans and a plain pull-over T-shirt, Duc does not look like a business magnate.

But the US Consulate in Ho Chi Minh City found out the hard way that looks can be deceiving.

According to former US Consul Robert Silberstein, Duc was denied a visa to the US four years ago after the visa officer had said “he looked more like a worker than a boss.”

Duc shouted at the officer who had rejected him: “I’m chairman of a premier football club! I own a giant corporation with thousands of workers and hundreds of million dollars in revenue per year! How can you reject me?”

Two days later, the consulate called him back and gave him a visa.

Since the adjusted refusal rate for B (business/tourist) visas was 42.3% last year, according to the U.S. State Department, I wonder how many how many other legitimate applicants are rejected on the basis of what they happen to be wearing on the all-important day of their visa interview?  How often do consular officers “judge a book by its cover” rather than make a judgement based on the documents presented and the applicant’s answers? 

The adjusted refusal rate for all non-immigrant visas for the previous three years is as follow:

FY 2008:  38.8%; FY 2007:  36.3%; FY 2006:  40.9%

Speaking of visas, the US, unlike other governments, does not release the adjusted refusal rate for student visas, but reliable sources estimate it’s around 40% in Vietnam.  Of course, one of the reasons is misinformed applicants (usually, thanks to misinformed education agents) or, in the most egregious cases, the use of fraudulent supporting documents.  Another reason is the oft-cited “gut instinct” and lack of accountability of consular officers.   The UK and Australia rejection rates this year were 6.7% (!) and 15%, respectively.

According to information from the “NIV Workload by Category FY-2008,” there were 504,647 applications that year for a student (F1) visa to the US with 340,711 issued and 163,936 refused.  If my math is correct, that translates into a worldwide refusal rate of 32%.

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