I’ve written in the past very positively about attending Javaone. I have attended in 2005, 2007, 2008, exhibited and spoken. I did not go in 2009/10 with the uncertainty over the Sun/Oracle takeover but decided to attend this year (with 2 developers) and look at the possibility of exhibiting again in 2012.
I booked 3 tickets before 31st July (to take advantage of the discount). One of my developers has a Nigerian passport. He is working for me for a year (a large Swiss drugs company tried to hire him but I trumped them with a better offer) before completing his IT degree in the UK the year after. All his family and friends are in the UK and he has lived in the UK since he was 13. He gets a UK passport next year. He has a great future lined up…
The idea of him even thinking of absconding in the US while on his trip to Javaone in San Francisco (where he knows no-one) to try and get a job as an illegal alien, washing dishes or doing menial work for maybe a fifth of what I am paying him currently and throw all his opportunities away are frankly farcial. So we thought there would be no issues with his VISA.
We filled in his VISA application for a week VISA to the US and paid the fee. Getting a VISA involves filling in a questionnaire online (Does anyone honesty tick ‘Yes’ to the question ‘Are you planning to commit any acts of Terrorism within the US?’) and he went for his interview at the embassy. Getting a VISA depends entirely on what the official thinks of you at your interview.
It is a pretty dehumanising experience and if the offical decides to decline your application there is no appeal. Many of the people applying have no previous experience of this system of government procedures and English may well be their second language. They turn up to an office where there are lots of men with guns which is pretty intimidating. If you do not convince the official (which is entirely subjective), he turns you down. So my developer’s VISA application was declined.
The date for a full refund on Javaone was 13th August but the earliest the Embassy could give an interview was 18th August. So I contacted the Javaone people explaining the circumstances on 19th August, citing that my company has brought 10 people to Javaone in the past, exhibited twice, and asking if they could use their discretion in this case. The answer was no (which is entirely within their rights but not a great example of forward-thinking customer services to build customer loyalty).
All this has consumed a lot of time, money and emotional energy and left me feeling rather raw about both visiting the US and going to Javaone in future.
So what are your experiences of getting into the US – do you have issues with getting staff into the US to visit of work? Have we just been unlucky? And are there alternative shows I should visit in future instead of Javaone?