Taiwan: An online protest against the American Institute in Taiwan

In September, Taiwanese artist Chen Chieh-jen started a website against the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) called, “I suspect that you intend to stow away to the U.S.”.

When he was invited to attend New Orleans Biennial, he went to the AIT to apply for a U.S. non-immigrant visa (business/tourist visa) at 12:45pm on September 23, 2008. When he delivered his application documents, he was told that there was an error in his document. He asked what the error was, but the officer yelled at him arrogantly, “Come here! Do you want to argue with me? I suspect that you intend to stow away to the U.S.”

After the accident, he left the AIT and claimed,


I surely reject this kind of humiliation, and I will never apply for a U.S. visa again.

Moreover, he invited others to share their experience if they faced a similar situation. He said,


I believe this world will be changed slowly, little by little. I sincerely invited people who have has a similar experience, either your own experience or your friends’ experience or what you have seen, to write down your testimony in this blog. These gathered experiences may help us think: why are we treated this way? What can we do to change the situation?

There are many people leaving message in his blog supporting his protest. “usa ng” is one of them.


I am curious about why some people think it is reasonable to use abusive language and attitude toward a visa applicant when his or her document has some errors.

Anonymous” thought U.S. government needs to clarify what these official are empowered to do,


The U.S. government empowered these officials to suspect applicants as to whether they intend to stow away to the U.S. However, these officials are not empowered to humiliate visa applicants. These officials have power to reject an application, but they should not use abusive language.

In his blog, some people shared their sad stories about the consequences of their failures applying for U.S. visas. “Juliet” talked about what the AIT official said when her visa application was rejected before her grandpa in the U.S. died.

爺爺在美國病危… 面試官只花了3分鐘看我的文件, 還是把我的資料退回. 我用”英文”說明這位親人已經是”美國公民” 只是想看我一面而已. 我當時在台灣有工作, 也不打算當個無業遊民. 面試官回了我一句話: Then you can ask airline company to send your grandfather back … 我只冷冷的回他一句話: You're heartless (你沒心干的) 就走了. 3天後我的爺爺去世, 我自從1997年就再也沒有再見過他.

My grandpa in the U.S. was about to die… the official spent three minutes reading my document but returned it. I spoke in “English” and told the official this relative of mine was a “U.S. citizen,” and what he hoped was to see me again. I have a job in Taiwan, and I do not plan to be homeless. The official said, “Then you can ask the airline company to send your grandfather back.”… I told him without any emotion, “You're heartless,” and left. Three days later, my grandpa died, and I had not seen him since 1997.

Luka‘s” mother did not get a visa to attend her wedding ceremony in the U.S., and “Luka” does not think AIT's reasons for rejecting her mother's application are convincing.

我剛和美國公民結婚. 一年當中,幫我媽媽申請了三次觀光簽證…第一次是AIT懷疑我會跳機,連帶拒絕我媽媽的觀光簽證申請, 面試時一個問題都沒問媽媽, 就被拒了…第三次,媽媽帶著我美國結婚證書正本,證明我在美合法性. AIT在不到三分鐘的面試當中, 說”你已經有被拒的紀錄,規定就是不行, 下一位!”…我老公以美國公民身份請美國參議員發函至AIT, 詢問到底要怎樣才能讓我媽來美國…AIT回覆美國參議員,說我媽媽無法提供跟台灣社會上, 經濟上, 家庭上足夠的聯繫(Tie), 所以無法通過. 可是AIT面試時完全乎略我媽媽在台灣有其他兒子, 女兒, 孫子的事實…只教條式認定, 喪偶的單身女子, 無工作, 無大存款, 等於”想偷渡”. 就這樣, 上星期六我們過了一個沒有女方家長的婚宴…

I just got married to a U.S. citizen. In the past year, I helped my mother apply for a tourist visa three times… but her application was rejected mercilessly. For the first time, AIT suspected that I would stow away and rejected my application. My mother's application was rejected too without asking her any questions… For the third time, my mother brought my marriage certificate issued by U.S. government to prove that I am staying in the U.S. legally. However, within three minutes, AIT said, “you have a record of being rejected, so I cannot issue you a visa. Next!”… My husband, a U.S. citizen, asked a senator to send a letter to AIT inquiring what we could do to let my mother come to the U.S… AIT replied to the senator and said my mother could not provide enough social, economic, and family ties with Taiwan, so they could not issue her a visa. However, AIT ignored that my mother had other sons, daughters, and grandchildren in Taiwan… Based on their understanding, a single woman whose husband has died, without a job, and without impressive savings equals “having intention to stow away to the U.S.” As a result, last Saturday we had our wedding ceremony without my mother…

Some stories are less sad but full of angry. “Akemi” criticized that AIT officials misuse their power.


This official told me that if I did not tell him I will start to work, he will not let me pass…As a result, I was threatened by a stranger and made a claim in front of a group of strangers such as, “ok, I will try to find a job soon,” in order to get my U.S. visa.

Anonymous” tried to analyze why applicants have so much psychological stress when going to AIT.

美國的資料顯示,台灣人辦美簽被拒絕的比例約是4-5%,但卻有那麼多人對美簽有那麼多“害怕辦不過“或是不滿的情緒,顯示這當中不只是refusal rate的問題,而是在過程中是否受到合理的對待? 是否在辦的過與半不過之間我們可以找到一套合理的標準,而不是主觀的,情緒性的判定。

Data presented by the U.S. government shows that the refusal rate of Taiwanese applicants is 4-5%. However, there are so many people afraid that their application will be rejected or who are angry with the process. These complaints indicate that it is not only about the refusal rate, it is about whether applicants are treated reasonably, and if there is an acceptable standard for accepting or rejecting applications instead of the officials’ objective and emotional judgment.

On the other hand, some people, including “anonymous“, reflected on how the Taiwanese government issues visas for foreigners.

除了新聞播出的外籍配偶面談常被刁難與問一些隱私問題外…(在越南)當地人為了辦 來台簽證要花好幾天輾轉搭車到市區,然後在門外排好幾天的長龍,進去申辦也會被刁難,不見得一次拿得到簽證,所以仔細想想,我們跟美國其實也是5步笑百步.

In addition to the difficulties and privacy issues faced by many foreign spouses of Taiwanese in the media… (In Vietnam,) it takes locals several days to take buses to downtown, and then they need to line up for several days outside the embassy. After they enter the embassy, they are also interrogated and may not get their visa if they only try once. If we think about this, what our government does to foreigners is similar to what the U.S. government does to us.


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