Visa Issues

  • By Daniel
  • 2009-07-14 20:07:00-0700

Sunday was a rainy day. Everybody was hanging out because there's not much to do outside when it's rainy, and it's difficult to get places on a scooter while it's raining. I was on my computer fiddling around when Tien came in looking a little sad and told me that her mother and sister didn't approve of us getting a tourist visa to get into the USA quickly because they said it was impossible, and that if we wanted to do it that way we didn't need to celebrate the engagement party. I didn't understand why on earth those two things had anything to do with each other. We talked a long time about it and I could barely make sense of it. I was incredibly frustrated and started questioning everything, which is typical "shit doesn't make sense" behavior for me.

Tien and I went out to a nearby cafe. The place was wide open, as most places in this area are. It was made up of a grid of posts holding up a thatched roof and between the posts were hammocks. In the centers of the squares created by the hammocks were tables and chairs. We sat at one table and Tien ordered a milk that she ended up never touching. We again tried to make sense of things, tried to figure out a plan to get into America at the end of the month. We were still set on getting the tourist visa because it only made sense, so we decided to somehow continue down that path. With that resolve, we rode off to another restaurant and got food and beer. Just as we sat down it began to rain heavily with lots of wind, and for the first time in Vietnam I was cold and wished I had a hoodie. Tien hadn't dressed well for the weather and was freezing. When the wind and rain subsided a little bit we got on the scooter and rode home through the rain, then cuddled up under a blanket to get warm, eventually migrating to the bed and sleeping for the rest of the night.

Monday I woke up with the intent to unravel every last detail I could find about the tourist visa and whether or not it was a good idea. Just as we were filling out the form I noticed one detail and decided to do some googling before submitting the application. About 30 minutes later I had relented to doing things a different way, with the fiance visa. It was not because going to the USA on a tourist visa was impossible, but because the short time frame we were aiming for could create some large legal hurdles in the future, potentially creating immense problems for us that could last years. I decided it was better to wait a few months and get things done easily from the beginning than spend years trying to sort things out. I decided this because I am already exhausted from all the bullshit associated with US immigration. It's unbelievable how difficult it is to get things done the right way, and it is very easy to see why so many people take shortcuts or simply enter the country illegally. For many people I would wager to say there is hardly an alternative to illegal entry. When I looked through forums online I found many many people who were also incredibly frustrated at how difficult it is to legally immigrate their fiance or spouse. This seems to be par for the course with the US gov though. Just look at the recent stimulus bills that essentially gave the irresponsible people a free ride out of responsibility and shared that burden with those of us who had been responsible all along.

Through all of this, every time I ran into another detail with the word "months" in it I thought of Anthony Hopkins after he had his stroke in The Legends of the Fall, talking to his son Brad Pitt. "Screw the government."

I also found a website,, that tracks visa processing times and although the estimated time for a fiancé visa is 6 months, apparently it only takes 75 days on average in Ho Chi Minh City, which was much more reasonable. So, after conceding defeat, Tien and I headed into town to take care of some things for our engagement party.

I saw men playing soccer barefoot in a parking lot off the side of the road.

While we were riding I heard somebody call out, and when I turned to look it was the fight guy from the bus. I was so amazed to see somebody I actually knew while I was out and about that before I knew it I'd smacked him on the arm even as we were riding and said "look at this guy!" as if he could speak english. Tien laughed a lot and then some stuff was said in Vietnamese and soon I waved goodbye.

That evening Tien and I went to a more upscale lounge style restaurant, probably the most swank place I've been in Vietnam, and got some smoothies. It amazes me that so many of these places don't even have alcoholic drinks on the menu. A lounge like this place in SF would be charging $8+ for cocktails and probably wouldn't even have a blender to make a smoothie with if you wanted one. We watched some American movie on TV and waited for the standard evening rain to stop, but it didn't stop, so again we just rode home in the rain.