On Saturday in the Financial Times (UK) a letter-writer from Kent who was forced to comply with ridiculously expensive and time-consuming American procedures to procure a visa for a one-day visit to New Orleans as part of a cruise complained that in the name of security the U.S. government has set up a “greedy, dishonest” visa system so off-putting that it “has made us very anti-American to the point we have decided not to bother to visit New Orleans but relax on the ship.”[1] ...


Comment & analysis


By M.G.F. Matthews

Financial Times (UK)
December 2, 2006


Sir, Angus Palmer (Letters, November 25/26) pointed up the Kafkaesque nature of having visited the U.S. and being wrongly regarded as a visa overstayer. My wife and I have an equally negative perspective of the U.S. and we have not even been there yet.

In order to join a cruise and spend one day in New Orleans, my wife who is a French citizen, needed a visa. Only certain European passports are covered by the visa waiver scheme.

In the U.K. the process starts with a call to a premium rate number at £1.20 per minute to make an "appointment" and to pay the visa fee of $100. Subsequently I discovered that this is a sham appointment more accurately called a queue which you share with 100 or so other people. This is probably to encourage mugs like me to keep phoning up at £1.20 per minute to see if there are any cancelled appointments. Naturally there are not, as there was no real appointment in the first place.

After a few days we realized this was a non-starter so being eligible to apply in Paris my wife went through to the visa section there, which demands 14.50 euros before they will speak to you or make a so-called "appointment." The delay for an "appointment" in the U.K. is more than four weeks. In Paris it was four days.

At the consulate several things stand out; the first, the very first thing the security guards demand is the postal order receipt to prove that the 85-euro visa fee has been paid. The second is the clear embarrassment of the French staff at the whole charade, who try their best to be helpful and to defuse the tension.

We returned home four days later with the visa. We have no problems with the visa requirement in principle but the arrogant, greedy, dishonest nature of the system has made us very anti-American to the point we have decided not to bother to visit New Orleans but relax on the ship.

M.G.F. Matthews,
Ramsgate, Kent CT11 8BD