Thursday, 3 February 2011

Letter on issuing visas to U.S. in Dili

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
U.S. Department of State
Washington, DC
via fax
February 2, 2011

Dear Secretary of State Clinton,

We are writing to you about the inability of East Timorese citizens to obtain visas to the United States at the U.S. Embassy in Dili. We urge to you to take action to remedy this situation as quickly as possible.

The East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN) worked to develop understanding and cooperation between the peoples of the United States and Timor-Leste for nearly 20 years. Since independence nearly eight years ago, we have paid close attention to U.S. government efforts to build strong U.S. relationships with the new nation of Timor-Leste. We believe that the current situation is having a negative impact on that relationship.

For many years, ETAN has hosted and met with Timorese here in the U.S. We have brought a number of them to visit and speak with community groups and public officials. The lack of proper consular facilities in Dili has resulted in delays, frustration and added cost to these trips. Frankly, East Timorese are forced to waste too much time and money by having to travel to Jakarta for their interviews, where they often confront unsympathetic officials with little understanding of the situation in Timor-Leste. Unfortunately, some who are well-qualified to receive visas are turned down.

There is no need for these obstacles to valuable cultural, educational and other exchanges with the United States, which lead many East Timorese to question this treatment as second-class.

In the past , we have been told that the delay in opening visa facilities in Dili is due to the cost. Last year, the U.S. was Timor-Leste's second-largest aid donor, and more than $100 million is in the pipeline for the next few years. This aid provides vital support for government and international NGO programs for health, education and good governance, but it cannot overcome stories of bad personal experiences with the excessively burdensome visa process.

We believe a small investment in issuing visas in Dili would greatly pay off in increased good will between the peoples of our two countries.

We understand that most or all U.S. officials closely involved with Timor-Leste favor this. We urge you to make it happen.


John M. Miller
National Coordinator, East Timor and Indonesia Action Network

Ambassador Judith Fergin
Kurt S. Campbell, Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs
Janice L. Jacobs, Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs
Joseph Y. Yun, Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs
members of Congress


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