Making a rod for our own back

Returning home after a disappointing experience in New Delhi, a civil servant who tried to obtain a student visa to the United States said, “he just tried his luck”. Rejected for a visa on his second attempt, he said he did not really have to go to the US. He has a secure job and a happy family.

It might sound like the sour grape story, but with more and more Bhutanese trying to go aboard for study and work, the experience is going to be more frustrating. The increase in traffic is coming at a time when millions from our region are trying to leave their countries for greener pastures. The large group of visa applicants will not get the treatment they expect. Besides interviews, there will also be questions asked because of suspicions.

Recently, some universities in Australia, where many Bhutanese now prefer to go for higher studies, are becoming stricter in even accepting applications and issuing the letter of acceptance. A Bhutanese student, if married and wants to bring his wife or husband, should be at least married for 18 months. This is a new criterion and has taken both clients and agents by surprise.

The analysis going around is that it is our own doing. In the hope of making some extra cash while studying in Australia, taking along a wife or a husband has become the Bhutanese trick. The fake marriage notarised by the courts had worked so far. But this is backfiring.

In the process some of the people who are genuinely married are bearing the brunt. This may not violate any rules of the host country but with a growing number of people from the region travelling for the wrong reasons, authorities will become strict. Although this number may be small, suspicious immigration officials, however, will take it to heart. Suspicion is very much a part of their responsibilities.

That some Bhutanese are trying to emigrate is also spoiling the chances for those who are applying to genuinely study in better schools and universities abroad. Given the sophisticated technology and systems in place, it is not difficult to detect if those on student visas are in colleges or working on the streets or malls. Today it is the condition on marriage certificates; tomorrow Bhutanese could be stopped from having dependents accompany them.

The government is increasingly finding it difficult to provide jobs to the thousands of jobseekers. They are encouraged to look for options that include working overseas. At home, the overseas employment agencies are mushrooming. In the midst of competition, a lot of tricks are being used. Left unchecked, Bhutanese wanting to go abroad will be put under more scrutiny and worse, the opportunity will altogether vanish one day.

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