In response to questions as to whether the U.S. State Department authorized and approved a Gangnam-inspired “USA Visa Style” parody video produced and uploaded to YouTube by the U.S. Embassy in Costa Rica, a State Department official provided us with the following statement:
Our embassies and consulates around the world are always looking for new and creative ways to educate and inform applicants about the visa process. The U.S. Embassy in San Jose is no exception. Consular section representatives regularly visit small communities across Costa Rica to bring a similar message as that in the video, warning of the dangers posed by visa scammers and coyotes who will take people’s money and jeopardize their chances of legally obtaining a visa—or even jeopardize their lives in the cases of those who are trafficked.
The video was designed for a Costa Rican audience, and meant to bring that same message in a more humorous way. It has succeeded. The public response in Costa Rica has been overwhelmingly positive, and it has been well received in the local press – ADN radio, Radio Monumental, and Channels 9, 11, and 42 so far. Comments on the Embassy’s Facebook site (146K + followers) have been overwhelmingly positive, with 743 likes, 150 comments and 256 shares. It has been viewed more than 20K times on YouTube, and while comments there are disabled, thumbs up reviews are running double to thumbs down reviews.
The video, which has gone viral on the embassy’s YouTube channel, shows embassy employees, including Anne Slaughter Andrew, the U.S. Ambassador to Costa Rica, dancing, as they warn of the dangers of using unauthorized means to secure a visa to the U.S. One individual is dressed up as a “coyote” who is trying to scam potential visa applicants. We provided our initial thoughts last night, as well as a running commentary about the video.
While the majority of the posts from the embassy’s Facebook page have been positive, other comments were critical. Here are just a few examples:
“This is a business where people are enticed to apply for a visa, pay a lot of money to then be sadly disappointed. I know many people who have met all the criterion to obtain a visa and they have been given a lame excuse as to why they are not eligible. I’m not saying go the illegal way but don’t make it sound that getting a visa is a walk in the park. The video was very fun though. With warm regards, an american citizen”
Other comments spoke to the real hardships of obtaining a visa, and questioned why the video makes it seem so easy to obtain. One commenter said in Spanish (our translation): “It is cute, but the reality is much different… when you deny people a visa and you don’t know why… only money supports the embassy.” Another commenter said, “If you are from a rich family in Costa Rica, you will get a visa with no problem, but if you are a person who wants to enter legally, unlike the Mexicans and other people from Central America, you won’t get your visa.”
Comments from our network, mostly from U.S. Latinos, were also not as positive:
“Sequester much? We have money for this sh-t? Remember the ‘training’ video the IRS made? Ridiculous! Where the hell is the oversight?”
“Ridiculous!!! And so not the way they treat us at US embassies in Latin America. We get treated like damn criminals. This makes me ill.”
“Slap to the Central Americans.”
Chicago’s Gozamos (who alerted us to the video) said: “Video depicts immigration like a vacation.”
It seems that there is a clear distinction between a video that was intended a local audience, yet can easily be seen by global audiences. One emailer told us, “Holy mother of GOD, WHAT THE HELL! I don’t know whether to laugh or cry!”
We do appreciate getting an official response from the State Department, although we still think that such a video was inappropriate to begin with. The behavior was unprofessional, and the concept makes a mockery of an issue that rips families apart. Is the arduous process of getting a visa a laughing matter?
We sure hope that this is just an isolated incident, and doesn’t become a standard strategy by the diplomatic arm of the U.S. government. We can only imagine what other “viral videos” are being planned.