Wanna say something regarding the recent visa issue with Boston Major
Hi all, many of you may know already, on the 16th of November, our team iG.Vitality went to the US visa interview and got team wiped (along with some of our friends in LFY). This thing has been really bothering me and I feel like writing something down.
Let's start with the beginning of this year, in order to prepare for the 2016 season of Dota2, we have made 2 teams: iG.Dota2, the team led by iG.Ferrari_430 and 4 new players to the scene, and the other team, iG.Vitality, which is the one I would like to elaborate in detail today. This team was led by Paparazzi, along with InJuly, an offlane player who was fading away from the pro scene; dogf1ghts, a new support player we have acquired from VG; super, a support player from the iG.Dota2 squad; and last but not the least, two mid players OP and Sakata rotating on the mid position. After OP has moved to iG.Dota2, the remaining 5 players formed the current squad of iG.Vitality.
If you would like to ask me what's special about this team, I think none of these players, when the team was formed, were considered as tier 1 player. Apart from Paparazzi, who is the first Chinese 8k MMR player, everyone else either had the experience of being abandoned by a club, or were just a pub player and had no pro experience, therefore, at the beginning, no one thinks this team will be successful. And I can tell you that, this is the lowest cost team under iG organization, even lower than our junior training team. However, this exact same low cost team started to shine after mid-year, and attracted bunch of attentions, even acquisition inquiries from other organizations. Another fact of this team is that, all team members have good temper, and they love group activities. I think this is the team with the best team environment that I have seen. And that's why the team came to me and said they would not like to have adjustments even after failed to attend TI6.
Now let's move forward to the Chinese regional qualifications of Boston Major. As most of you know, there will be only 2 majors apart from TI this year. Whether you look it from the honorial perspective, or purely the prize pool, the Majors are considered as one of the most important tournaments. Needless to mention how difficult the Chinese regional qualification is, as well as the past results of the Chinese regional qualifiers, we are proud that iG.V were able to qualify through it, along with LFY, and earned this precious spot. Looking back at when the team was first formed and comparing to what this team has achieved now, I think only these boys know what the hell has happened.
After we have qualified, the first priority to us was to start the visa application. I have already heard many stories about US visa being rejected this year and realized how difficult it will be. Back when iG had fewer staffs, I were the one getting visas of many different countries for our players. If I remember correctly, there was only one time we have failed attending an event due to visa rejection, it was to Sweden, and the reason was the invitation letter was not original copy, as well as there was no return air ticket, which were all due to time limitation that the organizer couldn't get the files mailed to us in time. However, I was still optimistic regarding obtaining the visas when plenty of time was given.
Every time when we participate a Valve event, Valve would provide us a very detailed folder of documents helping us preparing the visa application. These includes and not limited to: contact in US, hotel in US, sponsor for the expenditure(including name and address), air ticket for round-trip flights, background of Valve company, background of the game Dota2, information of the Boston Major and etc.
Therefore as soon as we have received the materials from Valve, we have started filing the visa application immediately. Me, along with our COO Zhili(who got PhD in US) and iG.V's manager qingjiao (who was an international student in UK) double and even triple checked all the applications. And we also did bunch of mock interviews just to prepare the players. However, unfortunately, they still all got rejected, and this is what happened on that day:
On the morning of the 16th, qingjiao and the players went to the interview. Qingjiao went up first, and was asked the purpose going to US, he said "Our team has been invited to attend the Boston Major, you can find our information online, and here's the invitation letter.", the officer said he doesn't need to look the invitation letter, however, he did ask some information of the tournament and the game, he also asked if he came with the team, qingjiao said yes, then he got approved.
At that point, qingjiao was pretty optimistic for the rest of the team to pass. The next was Dogf1ghts, after some chat, the officer asked Doghf1ghts if the rest of the team members are behind him, and asked them to all come up together. From what the players told me, they were still feeling pretty well at that time, until the officer asked if they are all high school graduates, they said yes, except for InJuly, and no further question from the officer anymore. A few moments later, they were informed that they all got rejected, without even a chance presenting the materials they have prepared.
Talking about diploma, I'm unsure how much it would influence the officer's judgement. It is true that most of our eSports players dont have higher education degree, however, maybe that's why they could put more focus on gaming and became a top eSports player. Don't misinterpret me, I'm not saying education isn't important, in contrast, I think education is super important. However, I can also not change the fact that the eSports scene is filled with players who don't have higher education. And I don't think education degree should be a decisive factor for approving/denying visas, how unfair would it be to not allow people entering into US just because he doesn't have a college degree?
Anyway, what I think isn't important. After we have failed to obtain the visa on the 16th, things spread out quickly on Weibo and Reddit. Some blame Valve for having the Major in US even though they know the difficulties of obtaining US visa; some blame the ACE organization not doing anything helpful; and someone was wondering why LOL players dont seem to have such issue. Well, from what I have heard, Riot has registered LOL as an official sport category, therefore players were able to obtain P1 professional sports player visa (and Dota2 players have to apply B1 tourism visa). However, this is just speculation and I have yet confirmed with Riot. But this is not what we should concern at this point, since it's impossible for Valve to do this within 10 days.
Regarding Valve, I personally think they have done a lot for us already, and we are truly thankful for it. Valve has a very experienced employee who is dedicated to handle all the visa related stuff, including providing all the necessary details that would be needed for visa application, as well as all the air tickets. As for ACE organization, I don't think they can do too much here, even though they have contacted me yesterday and asking if they could help anything.
Back to the topic, I have been thinking, WHAT DO THE OFFICIAL REALLY CARES ABOUT?
If he is questioning our purpose, we have an invitation letter from Valve, a world-known software company, who promises to be responsible of all the cost of our US trip, and all we do is just to participate a gaming event.
If he is questioning us retaining in US, I can say the probability is 0. As someone said on Reddit, "This never happened before and will not happen", also to quote someone from SGamer "These kids dont even know English and don't have any ability that can sustain their life apart from gaming, what can they even do in US?". Not even to mention there are countless tournaments and matches waiting for them after they have returned back to China, along with their families and friends.
In the original Reddit thread, there was a poste said "How does the visa system work? It doesn't make sense to me." I think, this is the question that's really on point, but then who can give an affirmative answer?
At this point, I feel like I had to do something, maybe it would be meaningless, but I have to do it. I would like to ask the US embassy officials, please, at our next interview, at a look at players invitation letter, take a look at all the documents Valve have provided us, take a look at their employment verification letter and pay stub, instead of remaining silence after just viewing their basic info. All we want is just to participate the Boston Major and we will return back to China immediately. I just hope you can please give them a little bit more consideration before making decision, because this is way too important to them. Thank you.
I would also like to thank you for reading this, and thank you for sharing this rough time with us, or maybe also start worrying about our players. Regardless of if you are an eSports fan, or someone from the Media, or a Pro player or anybody in the scene, as long as you care about eSports, I hope you can share this article.
We have already arranged an urgent visa interview that will take in place on the November 22nd 14:30, and this might be their last chance. We will really appreciate your help, no matter what it is.
Last but not the least, we hope our players Paparazi灬/Chengjun Zhang, Sakata/Zichen Xu, InJuly/Xiaodong Yang, dogf1ghts/Tianpeng Gao, super/Peng Su and our friends from LFY can obtain this US visa and attend Boston Major.