UPDATE: CIS got its visas and is headed to TI4! Check the story below for the latest:
By now, most Dota 2 fans probably know that CIS is having a difficult time securing its visas to go to the United States for The International 4. The team has already tried three times, and so far only Black and Ayo have managed to get visas, with the team’s other three members still out of luck.
(See: A week before The International 2014: what are Asia’s chances?)
Their next visa interview is scheduled for July 3, but you may already be wondering why they’re having so much trouble. As someone who has dealt with the US visa process firsthand, I may be able to offer a little insight:
When it comes to US visas, it’s guilty until proven innocent.
When you interview for a non-immigrant visa to the United States, your primary goal is to prove that you’re not going to commit a crime in the future—that you’re not going to overstay your visa and become an illegal immigrant. Since it’s impossible to prove conclusively that you will or won’t do anything in the future, you’re basically stuck trying to prove that you’ve left things behind in China you wouldn’t want to abandon. But…
CIS’s team is too young.
Unlike other Chinese teams, they can’t point to previous trips to other countries for tournaments as evidence that they’ll come back to China after the tournament ends. And they likely don’t have the kind of assets—houses, cars, large savings accounts—that the US Embassy likes to see as proof they’d want to return to China. They have very little evidence they can draw on to “prove” they’re not going to overstay their visas.
Endorsements from Valve don’t count for as much as you think.
Reportedly, Valve reached out to the consulate prior to the third round of interviews to emphasize that the CIS team would be strictly supervised in the US and would return to China on time. Other organizations probably have done the same, but three of the CIS guys got rejected anyway. The problem is that these sorts of endorsements just don’t matter much; Valve may renowned among gamers, but there’s a decent chance the guy at the embassy processing these visas hasn’t even heard of it. And speaking of that guy…
The US visa process can be pretty arbitrary.
It’s unfortunate but true: when you go to the consulate for an interview, what consular officer you get assigned can sometimes matter more than what’s in your actual application. You may have brought dozens of supporting documents, but the consular officer may not even look at them. My wife was rejected twice for a US visa more or less on sight, without being asked any real questions or having her supporting documents examined at all. In a later application, she was accepted almost as quickly. It shouldn’t matter, but unfortunately it does: which consular officer you get, and what kind of a day they’re having, can definitely affect whether or not you get a visa.
CIS doesn’t have much time left before TI4, so the July 3rd interviews will be crucial. Since Valve offered its help already before the third interview, I wouldn’t hold out much hope for the support of other organizations like D-ACE or Perfect World mattering. But then again, the visa process is arbitrary enough that every time you try it’s a little like rolling the dice—some or all of the remaining CIS members could get through.
Obviously, we’ll be crossing our fingers for them!