A curious case of visa denial

posted at 2:45 pm on December 16, 2009 by Ed Morrissey

In preparing for today’s TEMS, Big Hollywood’s Adam Baldwin asked me to look into the curious case of Anatolie Vartosu.  Despite having launched a successful business and being invited here to compete in athletic competitions, the State Department declined to approve an extension of his H1B visa.  It seems that Vartosu may have been a little too successful, and State didn’t want him to stick around:

Anatolie was invited to the United States in 2003 to compete in the Clearwater, Florida Marathon. He went on to win many races in the US, including the inaugural Little Rock Arkansas marathon in May, 2003. He successfully upgraded his tourist visa to a 3-year H1B working visa, to accept a job offer teaching gymnastics and soccer at a professional sports center at the Jack Rabbit’s Professional Gymnastic Club in Greenwich, Connecticut. Due to Anatolie’s enormous popularity, professionalism and effective teaching methods, enrollment skyrocketed from 80 students to over 450.

In 2006 Anatolie applied for what should have been a routine renewal of his H1B working visa for another three-year term. While the maximum standard answer time is 180 days, he waited over 18 months—which included numerous letters of support, including several from Congressman Christopher Shays—to receive the shocking answer: denied. Reason given? “overqualified” for his job—in spite of being granted his initial H1B working visa for the exact same position 3 years previously. Anatolie immediately appealed the denial and was told he would receive an answer within a maximum of 10 months. 14 months later he received the final decision regarding his appeal: dismissed—with no explanation and no right to further appeal.

To compound matters, Anatolie’s wife Maria, who is also from Romania, joined him in America in 2003. In 2007 she opened Shiny Little Stars, a Childcare Discovery Center with a partner. A highly successful, growing asset to the local community, it PROVIDES JOBS and receives glowing testimonials from its customers—parents and their delighted 2 to 5 year olds. Maria would also be forced to abandon her business and leave the country if Anatolie’s appeal is denied, as her status is dependent on his. His 6-year campaign for permanent residency in the US is at a desperate point. If justice fails him now, he and his wife will be forced to leave America for good.

There are, of course, a lot of variables in the visa process. After 9/11, Congress mandated that State tighten up its visa procedures, including better tracking of those who overstay their limit.  No one objects to that kind of enforcement, least of all conservatives.

However, as Bill Whittle wrote this summer, arbitrary and capricious denials undermine efforts to channel immigration through legal channels:

The biggest losers in our inability to control illegal immigration are the legal immigrants.  What benefit do these honest people gain from playing by the rules? This is as clear a real-world example as you are likely to see of the lack of retaliation flipping a system from cooperation to betrayal.

Pam Meister knows the Vartosus, and gives more background:

When he and his employers went to file a renewal of the H-1B visa, Anatolie was told he had to wait until October of that year. In addition, he was told he needed more documentation to justify a renewal. Once the additional information was filed in October, the 60 days he was told to wait turned into six months. After placing a call to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) in April of 2007, he was told to file the I-129 (an internal status inquiry), and was given yet another 60 days to wait.

Upon hearing nothing after the 60 days, John Schwartz (the other owner of Jack Rabbits) was told to file yet another I-129 and also set up an appointment with an immigration officer in Hartford, which he did. He and Anatolie arrived, dressed in their best and full of plans to plead their case with a folder bursting with newspaper articles about Anatolie, photos of him with the children he coached, and testimonials from parents and other gymnastics professionals. The shocker was when they discovered that the point of the interview was simply to find out what they already knew: Anatolie’s case was still pending. When Schwartz asked the immigration officer why they were sent to see her, he was told: “They don’t know what they are talking about up there.” (She was referring to the customer service department of USCIS.)

Then, after over a year of waiting, Anatolie found out that his renewal had finally been processed – but was denied in a letter dated July 9th. Despite letters from other gyms and USA Gymnastics (USAG) (formerly known as the United States Gymnastics Federation) supporting Anatolie’s petition, the denial was based partly on “the petitioner’s assertion that the duties and/or knowledge required for a gymnastics coach who trains children as young as one year old up to five years old is equally specialized and complex” as coaches who train world-class athletes – an assertion with which the USCIS did not agree.

Schwartz explains:

“They’re saying that since we’re not a high-level gym, we don’t need someone with his expertise. But my point is, we are building our program up to an elite level, and so we do need his expertise. Frankly, it’s difficult to find qualified instructors. And since we are a USAG-member gym, qualified instructors are essential.”

This sounds more like a bureaucratic snafu rather than any kind of malice towards the Vartosus, but that’s hardly comforting if he gets deported and his wife loses her business.  Hopefully, someone can intervene to bring some common sense to this situation, and encourage a family which is obviously contributing positively to the American experience to remain in the country.

The link above has a petition to sign to push the State Department to reconsider its position, left over from the Bush administration.  Maybe that will help Vartosu get across the finish line, and keep him from being punished for following the rules and being successful.


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Take over my health care now federal government!

WashJeff on December 16, 2009 at 2:49 PM

ON the assumption that we control who gets in (a la Ellis Island). Prove for seven years that you will not be a public charge (ie, no crimes, NO wlefare), learn the language, learn our history, and learn our government structure. Do those four…welcome aboard champ.

WashJeff on December 16, 2009 at 2:52 PM

PHD candidate, and my TA partner, ran into the same problem and wasn’t able to return.

Brilliant girl, gone.

jhffmn on December 16, 2009 at 2:52 PM

Your tax dollars at work.

Vashta.Nerada on December 16, 2009 at 2:53 PM

Death of businesses panel!

rbj on December 16, 2009 at 2:54 PM

How bizarre. We look like a fricking foreign counttry around here and this guy is denied?
Maybe he needs to apply to Mexico for citizenship and then come north.

ORconservative on December 16, 2009 at 2:54 PM

With this kind of incompetence, Federal Healthcare would involve being approved for a needed surgery 18 months after the patient has died.

Chilling.

portlandon on December 16, 2009 at 2:55 PM

Also, The gentlemen went through all the right channels and still gets shafted.

These truly are the citizens we want migrating to America.

portlandon on December 16, 2009 at 2:56 PM

Signed it.

The stupidity of government workers cannot be overestimated.

Common Sense on December 16, 2009 at 2:58 PM

$1000 to a Mexican coyote would have solved this.

Fletch54 on December 16, 2009 at 3:01 PM

The “open borders” liberal crowd absolutely don’t want to let in productive, hard working achievers.

No, they want more serfs to work on the democrat plantation.

wildcat84 on December 16, 2009 at 3:01 PM

Dont let the door hit you on the way out. Stop all legal immigration.

PrezHussein on December 16, 2009 at 3:02 PM

All they need to do is take a trip to Mexico, walk across the border illegally and they will be subject to all the goodwill, support and financial resources of the United States.

Problem solved.

Silly people. Trying to stay here legally…

catmman on December 16, 2009 at 3:02 PM

The reasons he had his visa denied are twofold.

White and non-muslim.

txdoc on December 16, 2009 at 3:03 PM

I wish someone would track down who the state department is letting IN (esp. the numbers from muslim countries)

RushBaby on December 16, 2009 at 3:03 PM

Vanneck… Varner… Vartosu. Ah, here you are. Hmm. You look like you might be an independent thinker and keep track of politics. You might even participate in the process and even consider running for office one day. Let’s see… Denied. Yes, sorry. Now please stand aside for that nice lady and her four children. Hernandez you say?

rogerb on December 16, 2009 at 3:04 PM

He should have went to Mexico and illegally crossed the border then stole someone’s Social Security number. Everything would have been cool.

Mark1971 on December 16, 2009 at 3:04 PM

What was the trick Auntie Zeituni used – even after being denied several times and given a deportation date? Even after Bush’s “reprieve” expired…..she is still here?! Insane!

“These are the times that try men’s souls….”

DINORight on December 16, 2009 at 3:06 PM

I guess government is only interested in keeping tax-PAYING immigrants out of our country.

DrAllecon on December 16, 2009 at 3:08 PM

The ‘compassion’ of the people who want to pass amnesty is hurting these type of people immensely. I saw firsthand the idiocy of the American immigration system recently.

We are sending people who earn masters degrees and PhDs in engineering from top American universities back to their home countries, but we turn a blind eye to the millions of sub-minimum wage lettuce pickers who wade over the Rio Grande. It is a sick immigration policy that rewards defiance of the law and punishes years of hard work and study.

Jeff M (Formerly Jeff_McAwesome) on December 16, 2009 at 3:08 PM

ON the assumption that we control who gets in (a la Ellis Island). Prove for seven years that you will not be a public charge (ie, no crimes, NO wlefare), learn the language, learn our history, and learn our government structure. Do those four…welcome aboard champ.

WashJeff on December 16, 2009 at 2:52 PM

Bankruptcy law operates on the presumption that a petitioner who fulfills the requirements will succeed, and the government has to justify a denial. And if fraud or other serious violation can be shown after the fact, the discharge can be revoked. That’s used for millions of individual cases every year. It could be adopted for immigration.

In this case I hope Congress declares them both citizens.

Chris_Balsz on December 16, 2009 at 3:09 PM

Amnesty for illegal immigrants. Bringing terrorists to our shores. Yet a productive, decent, successful immigrant, can’t get citizenship? Welcome to the new world of Obama. Dope, and Shame.

capejasmine on December 16, 2009 at 3:10 PM

If he was from the Saudi Entity, hated America, and wanted to build a Wahabbi Mosque within a stones throw of Ground Zero, then he would have no problem with immigration authorities.

Kalapana on December 16, 2009 at 3:11 PM

I say we let people buy work visas, given that they pass a security check. That would be a more accurate test of how much they are contributing.

Count to 10 on December 16, 2009 at 3:12 PM

Been there, done that, bought the t shirt. It’s deliberate. Trust me here.

chunderroad on December 16, 2009 at 3:13 PM

What’s the matter? He’s not an uneducated, spanish speaking only laborer?

Blake on December 16, 2009 at 3:13 PM

Signed it.

The stupidity of government workers cannot be overestimated.

Common Sense on December 16, 2009 at 2:58 PM

Me too, & ditto!

It cannot be stressed enough, gov’t is not the solution of our problems, gov’t IS the problem!

Archimedes on December 16, 2009 at 3:13 PM

Silly Anatolie. Only Obama can create jobs.

BirdEye on December 16, 2009 at 3:20 PM

This is the kind of Immigration Reform we need.I know a few people in similiar situations,who are skilled,have more than enough money to take care of themselves,love the USA,speak english very well,etc,etc(ones even married to a US citizen,but she cant live here)..but either cant stay,or cant even get in!Yet every town and city is being overburdened with illegals who can just walk in.Id dare say it IS racist.

theTarCzar on December 16, 2009 at 3:21 PM

If he was an illegal immigrant he’d be a cause celebre for the left. Can you imagine the outrage that would have been directed against pro-enforcement folks? “Conservatives claim that they want to create jobs, but here they are throwing out productive members of society who create work for everyday Americans.” MSNBC would do an entire segment. Maybe two…

omriceren on December 16, 2009 at 3:21 PM

He came in legally? What an idiot!

Tzetzes on December 16, 2009 at 3:25 PM

Amnesty for illegal immigrants. Bringing terrorists to our shores. Yet a productive, decent, successful immigrant, can’t get citizenship? Welcome to the new world of Obama. Dope, and Shame.

capejasmine on December 16, 2009 at 3:10 PM

while I don’t think this rises to the level of a presidential notice, you might want to be aware that the vast majority of this apparent miscarriage came during the Bush Administration before you come off sounding stupid.

Bleeds Blue on December 16, 2009 at 3:28 PM

We can’t allow riffraff like this into our country! We need the room for the fundamentalist jihadi Saudi students!!

Wine_N_Dine on December 16, 2009 at 3:30 PM

Every immigrant should sneak in through the southern border.

Morons.

rickyricardo on December 16, 2009 at 3:31 PM

Dont let the door hit you on the way out. Stop all legal immigration.

PrezHussein on December 16, 2009 at 3:02 PM

That’s just dumb. The US has always been a nation of (legal) immigrants, ever since its founding.

Norwegian on December 16, 2009 at 3:32 PM

Shays is a Republican. Beaurocrats are overwhelmingly knee-jerk progressives. His letters probably did more harm than good.

starboardhelm on December 16, 2009 at 3:33 PM

I’m surprised they didn’t let him in just to tax the bejesus out of him….gotta pay for big gov’t somehow!!!!

search4truth on December 16, 2009 at 3:37 PM

Sounds like a business competitor, perhaps a politically connected one, wanted him out.

PattyJ on December 16, 2009 at 3:41 PM

He’s just doing jobs Americans won’t (can’t) do.

hip shot on December 16, 2009 at 3:41 PM

So all they have to do is leave, then sneak back in. Since there is a hold on illegal immigrant raids, the government won’t be able to do anything. Then wait for amnesty (you know the bill is coming on that).

This is known as ‘gaming the system.’ The tragedy is that it is so bass ackwards to what should happen. Truly pathetic.

GnuBreed on December 16, 2009 at 3:42 PM

As a recent US citizen that took the legal path and waited “only” 12 years to become a citizen I proudly signed the petition.

sebis on December 16, 2009 at 3:44 PM

File papers, pay the fees, wait in line, obey the law, pay taxes while doing so: GET SCREWED

Swim across the Rio Grande: get free education, free health care, legal representation, food stamps, welfare, SCHIP for the kiddies and if anyone says anything about it scream racism at the top of your lungs while marching with an upside down US flag under a 5X7 Mexican flag

Welcome to America Obama style.

angryed on December 16, 2009 at 3:45 PM

If justice fails him now, he and his wife will be forced to leave America for good.

Why? Illegal Aliens aren’t?

PappaMac on December 16, 2009 at 3:47 PM

vast majority of this apparent miscarriage came during the Bush Administration before you come off sounding stupid.

Bleeds Blue on December 16, 2009 at 3:28 PM

Yeah cuz I’m sure had Obama been in charge it would have been different. Whatevahs.

angryed on December 16, 2009 at 3:48 PM

I hate to say it, but he’ll get much more sympathetic and responsive treatment from the government if he just stays on and announces he has become an “undocumented immigrant” (to use Justice Sotomayor’s preferred terminology).

MTF on December 16, 2009 at 3:49 PM

Obama: “I am on the precipice of fixing Anatolie Vartosu’s H1B visa.”

csdeven on December 16, 2009 at 3:51 PM

Yeah cuz I’m sure had Obama been in charge it would have been different. Whatevahs.

angryed on December 16, 2009 at 3:48 PM

I’m just saying that we get enough hits for stuff that we actually do. I don’t don’t think this can be laid on our doorstep.

Bleeds Blue on December 16, 2009 at 3:58 PM

I’m just saying that we get enough hits for stuff that we actually do. I don’t don’t think this can be laid on our doorstep.

Bleeds Blue on December 16, 2009 at 3:58 PM

Not on Bush. Not on Obama. This is big government in action. I will use this as a “hammer” for those that support more government involvement in our daily lives whether it is health care, education, etc.

WashJeff on December 16, 2009 at 4:12 PM

All those profits hes’ rackin up are Evil!

No productive taxapayers need apply only moochers and pants around their knees, quart drinkin, dope smokin, professional breeders wanted!

Dim voters for generations on the Obama Cash from Obama stash money train!

dhunter on December 16, 2009 at 4:12 PM

This is the kind of Immigration Reform we need.I know a few people in similiar situations,who are skilled,have more than enough money to take care of themselves,love the USA,speak english very well,etc,etc(ones even married to a US citizen,but she cant live here)..but either cant stay,or cant even get in!Yet every town and city is being overburdened with illegals who can just walk in.Id dare say it IS racist.

theTarCzar on December 16, 2009 at 3:21 PM

If one party or the other would drop COMPREHENSIVE immigration reform, and just do constant, limited, sensible reforms, we’d do a lot of good for the country, and the end product would be a lot more “liberal” than you’d imagine possible.

Chris_Balsz on December 16, 2009 at 4:23 PM

Illegal alien good, legal H1B visa renewal for an upstanding candidate for citizenship bad. WTF?

allstonian on December 16, 2009 at 4:25 PM

I think, in some ways, that these two individuals have a better claim to be in America than I do. Let them stay.

Horatius on December 16, 2009 at 5:00 PM

An “over” qualified fitness instructor?

How the hell do you become “over” qualified for that?

Unless the aparatchiks are completely anti-Dean Wormers – they WANT Americans to go through life ‘fat, drunk, and stupid’.

More likely to vote Democrat.

Wind Rider on December 16, 2009 at 5:03 PM

Shoulda stated in his ap that he “hangs sheetrock” or “washes dishes” or “mows grass” and his visa would be stamped. Apparently, he wants to do a job that an American still wants to do.

BigAlSouth on December 16, 2009 at 5:48 PM

I was the 365th signer of the petition. That seems like a pretty low number so far.

Al in St. Lou on December 16, 2009 at 6:14 PM

I signed. Y’all need the share on Facebook button.

WaltzingMtilda on December 16, 2009 at 9:56 PM

Oops…it’s usually at the bottom. Shut up.

WaltzingMtilda on December 16, 2009 at 9:57 PM

ON the assumption that we control who gets in (a la Ellis Island). Prove for seven years that you will not be a public charge (ie, no crimes, NO wlefare), learn the language, learn our history, and learn our government structure. Do those four…welcome aboard champ.

WashJeff on December 16, 2009 at 2:52 PM

Well, these folks have done just that, and the INS is kicking them out for it.

Voyager on December 16, 2009 at 11:52 PM

No problem for the Obama auntie, though.

fireweednectar on December 17, 2009 at 12:44 AM

i signed that junk! boom!

america is great because of immigration! it’s disgusting that a productive member of society be denied when he obviously enriches our country!

dirksilver on December 17, 2009 at 1:47 AM

while I don’t think this rises to the level of a presidential notice, you might want to be aware that the vast majority of this apparent miscarriage came during the Bush Administration before you come off sounding stupid.

Bleeds Blue on December 16, 2009 at 3:28 PM

Another mess I inherited and can’t seem to fix either!
/obama

Quit yer cryin little girl. Talk about sounding stupid.

runawayyyy on December 17, 2009 at 11:50 AM

He should be an illegal alien or from the Middle East. Then they would keep him.

Sultry Beauty on December 17, 2009 at 12:17 PM

Adam is a good guy, I’ll do what I can to help him help Anatolie.
Ed, Tell him “Hi” from the CPT photographer, Shooter.

shooter on December 17, 2009 at 10:12 PM

This sounds more like a bureaucratic snafu rather than any kind of malice …

Bureaucracy is malicious, and pique and whim are the order of the day, every day.

Maquis on December 28, 2009 at 2:13 PM