What Are the Odds?

Change in student visa policy major step forward


What Are the Odds?
by Layla Kamm

Sometimes practicing law can make you jaded and a pessimist. But every once in a while a client who has a clear dream comes in the door and reminds you of the power of perseverance.

Today I get a call from a young Iranian man currently studying in Turkey, who was recently denied an F-1 student visa for attending a community college in the U.S., without a formal interview. Of course they don’t give visas for attending a community college to Iranians, are you kidding? I think to myself when I first hear him. But this young man of twenty something insists on the phone that all of his documents were in order, that he had more than sufficient funds in his bank accounts, that his father can show even more money and ownership to properties in Iran, etc. He is upset that they didn’t interview him at all. He keeps saying to me, “I will transfer to a four-year university later, I know I will.”

I can sense the urgency in his voice, as if his entire future is dependent upon this visa, a right of passage into the Dream Land--America. And he is probably right. His entire future will be dramatically different if he gets to come to America, even to attend an unknown community college somewhere out in the Midwest for example. Right now he is studying in Turkey, where he will not be allowed to stay after graduation because the Turkish government, as friendly as they are to Iranians by not having any visa requirements, will not give them permanent residency. So then where will he go when he finishes school? He would have to move to another country, perhaps somewhere in Europe or go back to Iran.

The latter does not seem too thrilling.

He wants to reapply for a visa contending that he was unfairly treated because according to some link on the USDIS website “community college attendance on its own cannot be a reason for a visa denial”. He seriously feels that he has some sort of constitutional right to a consular interview, as if “unfairness” is a grounds for appeal, as if he can have his day in court.

He is mad. And I am partly entertained by his attitude because he is so far off in his mind about what kind of rights he has as a foreigner—especially as an Iranian--trying to get into the U.S. He does not understand that he has no rights whatsoever, is not entitled to anything and that his chances of getting a visa partly depend on who is sitting behind the counter that morning at the embassy, and what kind of mood they are in. But I don’t say this to him of course. I just explain to him simple rules of F-1 visa requirements and tell him very kindly that I know people who had been accepted to Standford University but were denied a visa. This should paint a picture for him although he remains upset and unconvinced.

Perhaps he is right and should get a visa. Perhaps if he comes to America, he will spend $3.75 at Starbucks every morning to buy a tall Frapicchino, and he will shop at Bloomingdale’s on the weekends and buy a pair of jeans that cost $170. This way he will pay a good amount for sales taxes. Perhaps he will then get accepted to a decent four-year university after two years, then graduate and get a high paying job and pay income taxes to the U.S. government. Perhaps he will even buy a house after a few years and then dully pay property taxes to the U.S. government. Perhaps America needs more people who are motivated and have dreams to come here. Especially young people from Iran whose dreams have been crushed in their own homeland and as such, they have saved and hidden their dreams in some tiny corner of their heart so that one day it could flourish somewhere else.

And perhaps America is wrong in the methods of deciding who gets in and who stays out. But until we have policy change or better relations with the current regime, community college acceptance for young Iranian men is just not good enough. After all, research shows that those attending community college have a higher attrition rate which means the consular officer has reason to believe that this guy will drop out half way in the middle, his visa will expire and he will wander the streets of America undocumented and jobless.

How do we know who will be a taxpayer and who will be jobless?

After I explain to him the odds of getting a visa if he resubmits his application and wish him luck, he politely thanks me for the information and hangs up. A week later, I get an e-mail from him that he got his visa after resubmitting his application and that he will be arriving in San Jose in exactly two weeks.

I smile. I smile because I was wrong in assessing the odds against him, and being wrong this time was a good thing. I also smile because I know America just got itself a potential future taxpayer.


The change in the student visa policy from single-entry to multiple-entry this past Friday was historical and a major step towards betterment of U.S. policy on immigration of Iranians. I would like to congratulate the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) on their continuous efforts to bring about this change which will affect the lives of thousands of Iranian students.



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Anahid Hojjati

He might have been a very good student and the only

by Anahid Hojjati on

reason that he had community college accepatnce was that he did not stay in Iran to get his high school diploma because of reasons such as political activity, not wanting to get drafted, etc. Next time, you may want to ask them about their high school grades in Iran. Us consulars know that if someone had good grades in high school in Iran, chances are that they can do well in US universities. Besides people transfer to great universities from community colleges all the time, not every community college student drops out.


Very good work by NIAC

by hirre on

It's sad how people hate NIAC... They do not understand that if there aren't any lobby groups like NIAC the US would consider us as just another arab country...