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Monk visas: The nightmarish process....

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  • Monk visas: The nightmarish process....

    Dear Doc.

    First off, thanks for a great site and invaluable resource for all those committed to learning more about Shaolin culture.

    I hope that this isn't one of those questions that you get asked all the time (how many emails start like that I wonder).

    First off, a bit of history (wake up at the back). I started Shaolin training in the xxxxxx of the Shaolin Temple under xxxxxxx. Trained there for nearly 2 years and decided to move to China to study the language. While there, I met and continued my training under Shifu xxxxxxx (heard of him? He says he is one of Abbot Shi Yongxin's disciples and very good friends with his gongfu 'brother' xxxxxxx?). Anyway, now I'm getting ready to move to America to start a new (married) life. I'm interested in the possibility of getting xxxxxx to America (xxxxx more exactly) to start a gongfu school there since there's a severe lack of any Shaolin monks there. xxxxxx is also very positive about heading Stateside if at all possible.

    So my question is how to do it? Reading through various archives and forums on your site I get the feeling it's something of a real headache and involves a lot of time and money but right now I'm totally clueless as to where to even start so any help or advice would be greatly appreciated.

    With many thanks in advance for any words of wisdom you can throw my way.


    The beginning.....

    They're all disciples of Yongxin now. But, that's another story. And, they all want to come to the US.

    I've been putting this discussion off for quite a while. For one, it's a nightmare of a discussion. How does one put two years of ridiculous time, effort and expense into a few paragraphs? And, because I've been ill, I've just been unable to put my thoughts together.

    It all started, a long, long time ago.

    It was back in August of 1995. It was my first trip to Shaolin, and one hot, miserable, muggy afternoon, I found myself sitting on this incredibly filthy and dusty large green rug, one that, if you moved in any direction, would give up a slew of dust and dirt. Shi De Cheng was sitting next to me; we were taking a break from our gong fu training, and I was starting to teach him English. It was quite comical actually, I had this electronic translator that we tried to communicate through. But mainly, we communicated through the time old method; a pen and paper. And, ridiculous little drawings.

    I had drawn a picture of the world on this yellow pad, showing him where I had lived, and where China was. Had this stupid little drawing of an airplane too. Somehow, I had explained to him that I lived on the other side of the world, in America. He explained to me, that he had traveled throughout a good part of Europe, but that he had never been to the US. He had always wanted to go there.

    For some strange reason, a bond had started between us during that first trip, one which was to end up in a master-disciple relationship sometime thereafter. And it was at that time that he had made it clear to me that he would love to go to the US. It was also at that time, that I made it clear to him, that one day, I would try to invite him, and bring him, to the United States.

    That was the beginning of a process. A lengthy, expensive, frustrating, process.

    One that I don't think I'd ever do again.

    Doc returns, quite a mess....

    It was May of 1996, and I was scheduled to return to Shaolin to train with Shi De Cheng the first week of June. But, the last week of May found me in a serious car accident, the details, and the reasoning behind, I shall not delve into. Needless to say, a head injury, with some pretty serious complications afterward, cancelled my trip. It also cancelled my career, and put my life into a spin like I've never experienced before.

    Things changed.

    And they got worse. From month to month.

    It was September of 1997, three strokes later, and a myriad of other neurological complications, that brought me to the brink. It was at that time, that I decided to risk another trip to Shaolin. My health was not the best, my neurological condition was tenuous at best; in fact, I said goodbye to my family, thinking that I wouldn't make it back. And then, I left for Shaolin. For what, I wasn't sure. But I had to heal, and I had to get better. I was a highly trained medical specialist, and I had given up on modern western medicine.

    I had thought that spending time in Shaolin, attempting to train with Shi De Cheng, would be beneficial. Why, I wasn't sure. But, at that point in my life, I felt I had no other options.

    It turned out to be a very beneficial trip. Decheng saw that I had some serious problems, and he helped me work through my physical disabilities. The bond grew, the devotion to Shaolin and all that it had stood for got stronger.

    It was at that time, that I invited Shi De Cheng back to the US. I wasn't sure how I was going to do it, nor was I sure what I was going to do with him there, but, in the back of my mind, I felt that, for what he had done for me, he had deserved his much longed for trip to America.

    I hadn't the slightest idea how I was going to do it. But, I was.

    Things change. And, they get worse.

    Upon my return to the US, I gradually developed more health problems secondary to my initial injury. Four blown cervical discs in my neck resulted in a paralysis of my left arm, and, constant pain. The next year was pure hell, but I got through it. The whole process of getting Shi De Cheng to the US had stopped. For a while.

    It was again in October of 1998 that I had returned to Shaolin. But this time, Decheng was no longer in China, he was somewhere in Europe teaching students. I had spent a little over a month training one on one with Shi Xing Hong and Shi Xing Xi, during which time, we became good friends. I was not to see Decheng for yet another year.

    But, at this time, the whole concept of starting a school in America started to rear its ugly head. Both Xinghong and Xingxi expressed a desire to go to America to open a school with me. Actually, Xinghong was more interested in going Hollywood at that time more than anything else. But, he had just started some sort of relationship with the people in Hungary, a relationship which prevented him from following his Hollywood movie star dream. Xingxi kept more realistic desires; he kept in touch with me over the years, in an effort to somehow, and sometime, get to the US.

    Doc meets the boys...

    It was sometime during the Christmas season of 1998, late on a Friday night, that I received a phone call at home. Some guy was talking Chinese to me.

    I hadn't the slightest idea what he was talking about. But, I did recognize two things. The words "Shi De Cheng" and "MGM". I put it together; there was a Shaolin monk tour in Las Vegas at the MGM hotel, and no doubt, Shi De Cheng had given some of the guys on the tour my phone number. So, I headed down to the MGM, and found Shi Xing Wei and Shi Xing Qi, two of Shi De Cheng's disciples. Met the rest of the gang too, including Shi Xing Xi, and others.

    I spent some time with the whole troupe, but especially spent some time with Decheng's disciples. I showed them Las Vegas, and some of the sights. It soon became obvious that both had wanted to come back to Las Vegas to live. And teach. But, it wasn't to be, at that time. I hardly knew these guys, and an invitation from me was not to be forthcoming.

    It was during one of my many, many returns to Shaolin, in the subsequent two years, that I eventually ran into Shi De Cheng. I think it was winter time; February in Shaolin is not only cold, but it's deserted. Not exactly a great time to go, but go I went. It was during that time that Decheng and I sat down and set the groundwork for a school in Las Vegas. It was also the time that we had decided to start some sort of invitation process for Shi De Cheng, Shi Xing Wei, and Shi Yong Qiang. Shi Xing Xi and Shi Xing Qi agreed to come over to the US during the second phase, after we had gotten the first bunch over, and got the school running.

    Problem was, I hadn't the slightest idea what to do. So, I started asking around.

    It was the spring of 2000. I started to ask some of my attorney friends how to get Chinese people over to the US. Legally, of course.

    Illegally would have been much easier. And much cheaper. Had I gotten advice from one of our local Chinese restaurants, I probably would have saved a lot of time and money.

    I first started, by sending a simple invitation letter to Decheng, Xingxi, and Yongqiang. They went to the US Embassy in Beijing, sat through a simple two minute interview, and were rejected. Answer one question in a wrong fashion, and it's over. Get an Embassy official in a bad mood or with an itchy hemorrhoid, and it's over.

    It's a ridiculous process.

    I then learned, that out of a thousand Chinese that might go to the US Embassy with a visa application, on any given day, that the US Embassy might give out two or three visitor visas.

    The odds were most definitely against us.

    You see, the US Embassy wants to see evidence that the guy they're giving the visa to, will return to China when his visa expires. Plain and simple.

    So, they want to see applicants with home ownership. Wives. Children. Families. Good high paying jobs. And, lots of money in the bank, which, of course, will stay in the Chinese bank until they return.

    Shaolin monks have none of that. So, it just wasn't going to work that way.

    And, trying again, would only be detrimental. For, they stamp the failed visa attempt in the passport. A previously failed attempt at getting a visa usually guarantees another failed attempt.

    I had to find another method to get Shi De Cheng to the US.

    There had to be another way....

    to be continued....
    Experienced Community organizer. Yeah, let's choose him to run the free world. It will be historic. What could possibly go wrong...

    "You're just a jaded cynical mother****er...." Jeffpeg

    (more comments in my User Profile)

  • #2
    .....and..........How does this little saga continue???


    • #3
      It will continue. Real soon. Just been overwhelmed with things, like monk teeth repair, New Years nonsense, bad health, shredded cashier's checks, moronic women, far too many emails, out of town visitors, sick friends, and other typical wasteful crap.

      Nothing new. Typical doc days.

      More to come on the saga....
      Experienced Community organizer. Yeah, let's choose him to run the free world. It will be historic. What could possibly go wrong...

      "You're just a jaded cynical mother****er...." Jeffpeg

      (more comments in my User Profile)


      • #4

        I sent you a personal email on this topic. Goin' through this process now. Did you receive it?


        • #5
          Wasting time at the embassy...

          Getting a visitor visa was just not going to work. The odds are most definitely against you.

          It was during a soon thereafter trip to Shaolin, that, during my stay in Beijing, I decided to visit the US Embassy. Wanted to get some feedback directly from them as to how to proceed. So, I went through the process of getting there on time, during their late afternoon, one hour session, that is open to US citizens, for visa questions. Got my little number, and waited on line.

          I might add, that I made this trip to the US Embassy in Beijing, during the subsequent three visits to China. I got to know the US Embassy quite well over the next year. It was not to be very fruitful.

          But, during that time, I was observant. And I watched all these other Americans in there, and listened. It was one sob story after another. Even spoke to a few people who were in there. Many of whom basically told me, that getting visas, any type of visas, for their friends and family, was a nightmare. One college professor from Harvard told me that he was there trying to show support for a Chinese student who had not only graduated from college in China, but had completed some sort of post graduate degree. She was to go to Harvard on a full scholarship in their East Asian program.

          She couldn't get a visa.

          I knew the odds were against me. But, I spoke with one of the young visa counsular agents about my attempts to bring Shaolin monks to the US. Did it a few times. Tried to get to "know" them, to make a subsequent visitor visa attempt more worthwhile.

          By the third time I went to the embassy, I finally got some young guy who was sympathetic to my cause.

          He told me it was easy. He suggested that I forget the visitor visa route, as that just was not going to work. He told me that I needed to apply directly to INS back in southern California, and get approval there for the visas.

          Sounded simple. Too simple. I thanked him and left.

          Back in the US, I searched on the internet for information regarding various types of visas, and how to apply for them. Figuring that **** out was like having a day when I get no email about penis lengthening and young horny teens that like this and that. You know, the ones that we never met when we were growing up. All those years in college and med school had not prepared me for what I was to find. The application process was virtually nonsensical. I gave up trying to figure it out.

          It was time to ask for help.

          Enter the attorneys...

          So I asked some attorney friends for some advice. Free advice. Which, is not too common I might add.

          The free advice I got, was to hire an attorney. An immigration attorney. And, one friend suggested that I speak to the immigration consultant with one of my local senators.

          So, that's what I did. I went the cheap route. Initially.

          Got in touch with the immigration consultant for I think Senator Harry Reid. He was nice, gave me some advice, and basically was no help at all. He was a mexican.

          I kind of figured out why he was on Reid's staff. Saturday was lawn mowing day at my house, and it became distinctly obvious. There were no Chinese pushing lawn mowers.

          All those guys were working illegally in the restaurants.

          Doing this legally was going to be a process. I had started to wonder that bringing them in through Canada, a country that had ridiculous bull**** immigration practices at the time, woud be the easier way to go. Get them in, and then get them legal.

          Looking back, that would have been a lot easier. And a lot less expensive.

          But, I was a tax paying citizen of the US. Paid one hell of a lot of taxes, I might add, over my career. I was a productive, law abiding member of society. The system was created just for good Americans like me.

          The system, as I eventually found out, didn't work.

          more to follow...
          Experienced Community organizer. Yeah, let's choose him to run the free world. It will be historic. What could possibly go wrong...

          "You're just a jaded cynical mother****er...." Jeffpeg

          (more comments in my User Profile)


          • #6
            An immigration attorney gets involved

            I've got quite a few attorney friends. But none of them do immigration work. From what I hear, it used to be easy legal work. Fill out a few forms, collect your money, and the visas come rolling in.

            Sept 11 changed all of that. Sept 11 happened in the middle of my visa process.

            It was during the winter before Sept 11 that I met one of the top immigration attorneys in Las Vegas. A guy that not only did Mexican issues, but, dealt with visas from all over the world. He was the guy that other attorneys sent their visa problems to. I made a point of sitting down with him, and tried to learn as much as I could.

            The first thing that I learned, is that the typical charge for a visa application, is about $1500. Per visa application. With no guarantees. And he had made it clear, that dealing with China, meant, no guarantees. He had been largely successful with other countries, but when it came to China, all bets were off. It was going to be one hell of a lot of work. Our government didn't play nicely with their government. When our "spy" plane was forced to land in Hainan years ago. we saw proof of that. But, he explained to me, it was doable. We started to set down what was going to be needed.

            First, money. $1500 dollars for each applicant; I had three guys I was trying to bring over. That didn't include the actual visa fee application to the US government. Plus, another issue was mentioned to me.

            The fact that INS, at that time, did not guarantee any sort of timetable when it came to evaluating these applications. In fact, it was not uncommon, for INS to leave applications on a desk for six to twelve months. Before even looking at them.

            And, sometimes longer.

            Dealing with INS of that day, was a major problem. You couldn't call them up to ask them what was going on with an application, because, you never got a number that would reach one of the INS agents. You played phone limbo. Faxing letters didn't help either; no one responded to them.

            So, sending the typical application into INS would result in some sort of waiting period. If you were lucky, six months. If you weren't, over a year. Before the application was even looked at.

            And then, they would always want more information.

            Talk about frustration.

            But, at that time, in mid 2001, INS had instituted a new program. One of these rapid review type programs. You send extra money, and they would guarantee that they would get you a response within two weeks.

            For an extra thousand dollars an application.

            Oh, but the catch was, they would never tell you when they "received" the application. Two weeks, could easily turn into four months. When they "received" the application, was always a matter of debate, and always, up to them.

            And, as I later found out, it most certainly was.

            There was also a discussion about what kind of visas we should apply for. I had been unsuccessful in the past with the process of obtaining visitor visas. My attorney wanted to get something more worthwhile, and something, that would fit the monks the best.

            So, we settled on O-1 visas. Visas for people of special ability.

            And we applied for three years. No sense going through the process for a one year visa. I was to be thankful for that decision, much later on, even though, at the time, I was afraid that asking for too much, might lead to failure.

            So, it was decided. We would try to get O-1 visas for three monks, on the so called Fast Track program.

            Total cost: about $8500.

            To start...
            Experienced Community organizer. Yeah, let's choose him to run the free world. It will be historic. What could possibly go wrong...

            "You're just a jaded cynical mother****er...." Jeffpeg

            (more comments in my User Profile)


            • #7
              Getting the **** together

              to be continued
              Experienced Community organizer. Yeah, let's choose him to run the free world. It will be historic. What could possibly go wrong...

              "You're just a jaded cynical mother****er...." Jeffpeg

              (more comments in my User Profile)


              • #8
                I'm not finished.

                I have only just begun....
                Experienced Community organizer. Yeah, let's choose him to run the free world. It will be historic. What could possibly go wrong...

                "You're just a jaded cynical mother****er...." Jeffpeg

                (more comments in my User Profile)


                • #9
                  how are you on this visa saga?


                  • #10
                    More to come. I've been busy.
                    Experienced Community organizer. Yeah, let's choose him to run the free world. It will be historic. What could possibly go wrong...

                    "You're just a jaded cynical mother****er...." Jeffpeg

                    (more comments in my User Profile)


                    • #11
                      I have been reading your postings about your master and speaking to the what you call higher ups in JiLin province. Dont think that these people are really the higher ups. They are all connected to the so called boss employer of your master. They are all friends and business associates and everything you do and speak will get back to the head master of the academy you are working with. How do you think he is able to get the visa for his students? He has many friends in the police station.

                      It is not aways China that does not want the people to travel that is only part of it. They have their reasons and you can not ask them why. It is just their governmental ways. But you are also working against the head master of an academy that does not want his master to leave. They can go out to other countries but you are not aware of it. The head master of that academy just a week or so ago was in Deng Feng and was taking one of his newer masters to Korea with him. Your master was denied by the head master even though he is the biggest master at the academy now. It is called keeping his workers in line. Even though the country of China is very big the shaolin community is very small and when you are a part of it you hear the scuttlebut and you know who had muscle and who does not.

                      These masters are paid monthly and at times some academies dont pay every month. They give 100 yuan a month for small things and the rest of the money is given during chinese new year. So for a master to leave he leaves everything he has worked for behind ( meaning his money). There is much you dont understand and you really should take more time to understand it.

                      You are naieve and you love your master I can understand that and they can be very persuasive when they want to be. But you best be careful with who and what you speak about. Just a friendly suggestion. You step on toes now trying to do things the fast way for someone and you can create problems for the future. Like in obtaining a visa for yourself to come to China.

                      You have to be half politician as well as lawyer to get what you want and most of all being patient.


                      • #12
                        I'm here in Beijing. The fifteenth trip. Amazing city. The change is incredible here.

                        But nothing changes at the US Embassy in Beijing. Again, another attempt to get two Shaolin masters, Shi De Hong and Zhang Xue Min, three month visitor visas to come to the US. This time, with the help of the Henan government Shaolin Temple Wushu Guan. Something we didn't have before.

                        A hundred dollar application fee, which, given the typical 250 USD monthly salary found in China, is a lot of money. But, hell, I paid for it. I was going to fly these individuals over to Vegas, put them up in my house, and let the students of the school benefit from their "being there". The masters would get a taste of American life, and learn some English. Then, they would go home, and we'd bring two other monks over. I set this cross cultural exchange program up last year, with the head of the Wushu Guan.

                        But, everyone has to go through this interview. An interview, where one wrong answer, or, one wrong face, destroys your chances. And, a failure gets marked in your passport. One failure stamp, and generally, you never get a visa, regardless of how "good you look".

                        Both of these master's documents were well in order. Shi De Hong, having left the monkhood years ago, had a good job, property, wife, children. All reasons for him to return to China, the major force behind the granting or denial of a US visa. Zhang, a young female, had property. But, both had the support from the Henan government. And, of course, our corporation had invited them.

                        All was going well, until the interviewer, some Chinese American that worked at the US embassy, noticed that De Hong's marriage certificate was a copy, and not an original. I guess he's not aware that an incredible amount of business is conducted throughout the world by fax. The interviewer then asked Zhang if she was married. She, of course, said no.

                        Interview was over. Two minutes.

                        Neither got a visa. No explanations.

                        US Embassy made $200.

                        I've been here before. Quite a few times. Try to do something good for people both in the US and China, and this is the nonsense that you've got to deal with.

                        Frustrating. Very frustrating.
                        Experienced Community organizer. Yeah, let's choose him to run the free world. It will be historic. What could possibly go wrong...

                        "You're just a jaded cynical mother****er...." Jeffpeg

                        (more comments in my User Profile)


                        • #13
                          Shi Xing Rui, just read your post. Not sure I understand what your saying. I think that there are misperceptions.

                          Shi De Cheng now has his own school. He has no head master. He is a private individual, in fact, he is the head master of his school. It is not the Chinese government that stops these visas; it is the US govt. The US does not want Chinese emigrating to the country, for many reasons. We are not working in Jilin province, we are in Henan. And trust me, I'm not naive about getting visas for Chinese citizens. I've been dealing with these issues, on a very close, and expensive basis, for the past five years, for many different monks. I've also worked closely with immigration attorneys, and, US embassy officials. I've learned a lot.

                          I have no problem getting single and multiple entry Chinese visas. For what usually takes most people a week, takes me an afternoon. This is my fifteenth trip to China.

                          As for this current (and different) visa issue, we had the help of the local Chinese government this time, with these masters. It was still stopped at the US embassy, not at the Chinese govt level.

                          I've yet to finish this story. You have no idea what has taken place over the years. I will get around to it when I have more time. It has been a very elaborate, and frustrating, journey...
                          Experienced Community organizer. Yeah, let's choose him to run the free world. It will be historic. What could possibly go wrong...

                          "You're just a jaded cynical mother****er...." Jeffpeg

                          (more comments in my User Profile)


                          • #14
                            After you got them the O-1 you should have applied for Green Cards after the 1st year or so.

                            The O-1 establishes that the person is one of extraordinary ability, which is also one of the things that makes you eligible for permanent residence.

                            Of course, you would have to further reinforce and document the extraordinary ability claim. You could do that by having them publish a bunch of articles in martial arts magazines, and enter a few Wushu competitions where they are guaranteed to win 1st place anyway. Things like documenting the seminars they gave where people travelled from halfway across the country to learn from them etc would all help.


                            • #15
                              Just curious, would it be possible for an american to be a monk? Not myself, but if they completed the training? Might help if they were chinese. Hopefully, then it wouldn't be a problem to get them out of china then. I probably am ignorant, but with xy, being a businessman couldn't something be arranged?

                              Doc, I think this should go in the monk chronicles section. I think you should write a book about your experiences bringing monks to america. Maybe you could recoup some costs.

                              You would think our government would welcome shaolin monks to come over. You want to teach Shaolin Gung Fu to american's? SURE come on over. We would be happy to learn Gung Fu.


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