Letter to AmCham Members
I have tremendously enjoyed working with the members of the American Chamber of Commerce. It is from you, the practitioners of business, that I have learned so much about the Uzbek economy.
The business climate is very different from when I arrived over three years ago.
Then the U.S. enjoyed a close, productive bilateral relationship with Uzbekistan. Under our “Strategic Partnership Agreement” signed in 2002, we shared a robust spectrum of cooperation, from military to cultural to economic. But at the same time in January 2004, we saw the first clouds on the horizon. A series of independent, unrelated events occurred that drew the attention of people all over the world: so-called color revolutions in Georgia, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan, and then the violence in Andijon. Events outside of Uzbekistan worked against the continued improvement of the U.S.-Uzbek relationship.
Many things have changed since my arrival. There has been a nearly two-thirds drop in the size of the American community in Uzbekistan, including NGOs, business and Peace Corps members. In virtually every area of U.S.-Uzbek cooperation there has been a quantitative reduction in the level of engagement. Unfortunately, the process is not over, it has just slowed down.
The U.S. still favors a strong, bilateral relationship with Uzbekistan, consistent with our Strategic Partnership Agreement, which states both sides will cooperate in a full range of areas. We must engage in serious political dialogue before we can discuss reestablishing a serious bilateral relationship. With appropriate political will on both sides, we could reach a common understanding with the Government of Uzbekistan. I do not expect a return to the kind of relations we had in 2004. The Uzbek Government is primarily interested in areas of cooperation such as health, border safety, and nuclear proliferation. We welcome that cooperation but would like to see more.
On a different note, I know that the Embassy's Consular Section provides important services to Am Cham members. I would like to use this opportunity to again clarify the visa process. Our Consular Section provides a full range of services, including American Citizens Services as well as Non-Immigrant and Immigrant visas. Each applicant must pay an application fee of $100; this fee is not refunded in the event of a refusal. Visas are typically processed within one working day.
The slogan for visa processing is “Open doors, secure borders.” The U.S. government wants to promote legitimate travel to the United States and to promote trade with U.S companies. Consular officers are charged with determining and facilitating legitimate travel, while also protecting our borders and social institutions. According to Section 214(b) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, applicants for almost all categories of non-immigrant visas “shall be presumed to be an immigrant until he establishes to the satisfaction of the consular officer at the time of application for a visa… that he is entitled to a nonimmigrant status.” That means that the Consul must assume that every applicant applying for a visa intends to live in the United States, and it is up to each applicant at the time of application for a visa to show why they will return to Uzbekistan. In training cases, proof of course payment and a company's letter of guarantee are not the only factors taken into consideration. The applicant must present a compelling case as to why this training is necessary and why they will certainly be returning to Uzbekistan at the completion of that training. Refusals under Section 214(b) are not permanent, and applicants are welcome to re-apply when they feel that they can demonstrate their strong ties to Uzbekistan.
I encourage you to visit our Consular website at uzbekistan.usembassy.gov/consular for more detailed information about the visa process and the other services that we offer.