I would like to share an interesting story about my past two visits to American Institute in Taiwan (AIT).
For people in Taiwan to study or work in the US, they need a student visa or a work visa. Visas are acquired by interviewing with an official at one of the two AIT offices. Luckily, one of them is very close to where I lived in Taipei.
I went to AIT to get my student visa for DigiPen in 2011, as well as my work visa stamp for Naughty Dog in 2015. My experience with both visits told me that, apparently, game devs are considered non-threatening to US national security at all.
My Student Visa (2011)
This was my first time interviewing at AIT by myself. When I had visited the US with my family before this, it was my parents who did the talking at the interviews for visitor visas.
As I got in line at the AIT office, I started practicing the interview in my head, trying to prepare my self with acceptable answers for various possible questions related to national security. When I got closer to the interview booths, I tried to eavesdrop on the interviews to get a better idea on what sort of questions were asked.
For many people before me, they were asked tons of security questions, and a few of them got rejected. As I heard more questions and saw people getting rejected, I became more and more nervous.
Then, it was my turn.
I went up to the booth, and the interviewer took my documents.
“You’re going to study in the US?”
“This school. DigiPen. What are you studying there?”
“Making video games.”
“Oh? What type of games do you play?”
“I said what type of games do you play?”
“Uh…mostly action games and platformers.”
“Really? Like what?”
“Well…like the Assassin’s Creed series…and the Uncharted series.”
“Ah. I’ve never got to play Assassin’s Creed, but I play a lot of Call of Duty.”
“Um…I’m not that into shooters.”
“I see. You should try.”
“I did play some shooters, but not much.”
“Okay. I see. Thank you.”
Then the the interviewer stamped my passport and gave me my documents.
“So….” I was confused.
“You’re good to go! The exit is right over there.”
That was the entire interview. Not a single national-security question asked.
My Work Visa Stamp (2015)
After leaving DigiPen in April 2014, I started working at Naughty Dog in May 2014 without leaving the US. For the first few months, I was working under Optional Practical Training (OPT), which is an extension program that allows new grads to stay and work in the US for a year, with a possible 17-month extra extension.
Work visas are issued en mass around October by lottery. I got my work visa in October 2014 (the chance of getting one was about 50% in 2014). However, I had to get a physical work visa stamp on my passport from AIT if I wanted to leave the US and come back later. I had planned a trip to Korea earlier this year in March, so I had to arrange a visit back to Taiwan after Korea.
Again, I was in line at AIT. This time I was less nervous based on the experience from last time. Then, it was my turn for the interview.
“So you need a work visa stamp, huh?”
“Ooooh. Naughty Dog. I know this company. You guys make video games, right?”
Then the interviewer quickly stamped my passport and returned my other documents.
“Here you go. Have a nice day!”
And that was it. It took me less then a minute, which was unbelievably quick compared to other interviewees.
Apparently, game devs are considered non-threatening to US national security at all.
They probably don’t know that some game devs (like Zombie Studios) make serious games for military training purposes. Oh well.