May 22nd, 2008 12:00 EST
Europe May Introduce Visas for Americans
Welcome to the European Union. All visa holders please go to the gate on the left. All visa holders, including Americans.
Soon this futuristic scene may become reality as the European Parliament is growing increasingly irritated with U.S. immigration policies. Only the citizens of 13 out of 27 EU member states can visit the United States freely, leaving the majority of Europeans still spending hours at American embassies to obtain required visas. This procedure excludes all HIV positive people who are automatically rejected the entry to America regardless their nationality. Moreover, US immigration officers have a right to turn back any person they find suspicious or simply unsympathetic.
The European Parliament underlines that all Americans, regardless their material, medical, and racial status are welcome to the European Union and the only thing they have to present at the border are their passports. Recently, the parliament was granted permission from the European Commission – a governmental body comprised of member states' representatives – to lead negotiations with Washington as the US visa program becomes a contentious issue on the old continent. The lawmakers argue that since the European Union is treated in international relations as an entity with all 500 million people enjoying one European citizenship, the United States should stop discriminating single countries.
Washington insists, though, that it will negotiate with countries, not the entire organization. Since the beginning of this year, the US State Department has signed deals with the Baltic States and other Central European countries that commit the United States to give up the traveling restrictions in the nearby future. But even then, people will still be required to present their return tickets as well as the address of the place they will stay at. The State Department also said that European visitors could be returned by US immigration officials if they failed to prove they were not coming to the United States to work or permanent stay.
The European Parliament says that if the United States does not give up visas for all EU member states, then at least it should introduce comprehensible visa requirements. So far US embassy workers can refuse a visa to everyone without giving specific reasons, which leads to a large number of the rejections. The Europeans claim that during a five-minute interview with a petitioner, a consul has no chance to evaluate his or her social status that is usually the main reason of rejection.
Maybe Americans will look at their immigration law in a different light if they themselves will have to obtain a visa to visit Europe. Apart from Great Britain and Ireland, other EU member states have one immigration policy which is exercised by the European Commission and Parliament. Although the probable introduction of visa requirements for Americans belongs to the distant future, the EU has given its American partner a clear signal that the United States should grant others the same privileges that they can unrestrainedly enjoy.
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