Turkish teams unable to get US visas for World Championship

Hello everyone,

Opening this topic to inform the community about the troubles most Turkish teams that qualified for World Championship are dealing with.

TLDR; Most Turkish teams aren’t going to make it to Worlds, or will only be able to send a few students (that already has US visas) due to US consulate in Turkey being not available for any appointments before the Worlds. If you are or you know someone who can make a change please contact me.

There were 3 events held in Turkey, İzmir Regional (Week 1), İstanbul Regional (Week 3) and Bosphorus Regional (Week 3), that qualified 12 Turkish teams: 2905, 6025, 6064, 6429, 6838, 6988, 7285, 7466, 8058, 8153, 8561, 8861. There is also a 13th team (8159) that qualified by winning EI in San Fransisco Regional, that don’t have these troubles because they already had their visas months ago.

Almost all teams applied for US visas immediately after they qualified. The earliest appointment I’m aware of given to teams is in January 2023. Teams all applied for an official expedited appointment to get visas to students and mentors before Worlds, which got rejected. So in the current situation (if nothing changes) most Turkish teams aren’t going to make it to Worlds, or will only be able to send a few students (that already has US visas). For example: my team only have 3 students and a few mentors that already have US visas, and we can’t even form a drive team. (We are still going to try our best in the Worlds though with the people we have). Some teams sadly don’t even have 3 students with visas.

One mentor from my team applied for visa today and got his appointment for November 2023. The worse thing here is if this situation continues with consulate, in the next years Turkish teams that are competing in Turkey will be practically banned from going to worlds, since we have no chance of getting visa appointments after teams learn that they are qualified and are getting denied for expedited appointments. Teams going to regionals in US, can practically apply 5-6 months ago before their competition so they seem to have a better shot.

As teams, we tried to reach almost all the people we can reach that may make a change. I’m writing here to inform the community about our situation, and asking if anyone knows someone that can make a change.

We wish all the teams a great competition season!


This is a really unfortunate situation and I am heartbroken for all of these students. I don’t know anything about what FIRST may or may not be able to do to help with this but I know that sports organizations frequently petition other countries for visa restriction exemptions, expedited visas, etc…if FIRST isn’t already doing this, IMO they should be. There are whole threads and manifestos that could be written (and have been written) about the issues non-US teams have to deal with, and this is another one of those issues.

I wonder if this would be an acceptable exception for having students from another team assist your team and help fill those roles (though even just one student is enough students for a drive team - obviously not ideal, but possible), which is a provision made in the blue box under H501:

There’s no further info in the manual on this topic - whether you need an exemption documented, approved, etc - but if any of these teams are able to get their robot to Houston and are okay with getting this assistance, I’d recommend contacting FIRST and asking more about this provision. If they give the go-ahead, I am sure there will be no problems with finding people and supplies to help the team compete.


If we don’t make it to worlds we might be able to contribute team members. I know I’d be more than happy to provide programming and electrical services


Being one of the teams @vatanaksoytezer mentioned, 6838, we are also in a similar situation. We have very few students, mostly rookies, who will be making it to worlds, and our only technical mentor might not make it.

Similar to 7285, we will most likely attend champs and compete but we lack many great students who have worked hard throughout the pandemic and the season. Currently, we are seeking ways in which we can get a closer appointment from the consulate.

I am wondering if any possible action of the HQ can help with the appointments of the U.S. consulate in Turkey.

Even if teams can not make it this year, it seems like this is gonna be a problem for the upcoming years as well. If not solved, qualifying for champs from a Turkish regional is basically pointless (considering the 1.5+ years wait time on the appointments) for Turkish teams.

Looking forward to hearing what the community has to offer.


Do you (or OP) know if anyone has contacted HQ directly about this? Maybe @AlexBurchard ?

(Just a reminder that while we know some HQ folks glance at CD now and then, this is not the proper way to communicate important things)


I have, this isn’t in their wheelhouse.


holy cow pretty sure this response was faster than a Ryan Hall blog post thread


Alex, assuming this is a reality for teams in Turkey to not be able to compete at world this year (and hopefully not in future) has Turkey looked at an unofficial national or perhaps eastern hemisphere invitational?


I am watching this thread in case there are any good ideas for help. I and my family have knocked on every door we can find, we’re still trying. I am embarrassed to call myself an American right now, because this situation is absolute crap. If I had Turkish citizenship already I’d seriously consider giving up my American citizenship in protest. And AFAIK, Turkey is not the only country experiencing this. America is just no longer open to the world. That’s the reality of the last decade, and it just gets worse and worse every year.


We’ll see how the Visa situation turns out.

Edit: I’m not promising anything, but it’s definitely been considered. We’re really tired after this season though, this season was crazy difficult for us, so, we’ll see how things go, who knows.


Can confirm, we have even looked the closest neighbor countries of Turkey that we can travel without visas. For example: US Consulate in Georgia (the country) does not give appointments until end of April.


2 or 3 weeks ago the consulate was still giving expedited visas, we had talked to the consulate in January about our teams attending regular regionals in the US, everything was fine, and then they just slammed the door shut and said No. Right after the regionals. I don’t know what happened on their end to make them stop working to help amazing kids, but they stopped helping.


What if there was a Week 6 Regional in the U.S. right near the Champs venue, that international teams could plan to attend far in advance, and extend their visit if they qualify?

I know there are several glaring issues with this idea, but if the current situation continues and FIRST HQ is really unable to do anything about it, then something like this may be necessary.


Might be an interesting idea, if teams don’t make it to champs this year it might really be a good option to consider. Traditionally the big problem for Turkish teams is the budget though. Most teams don’t want to spend the limited budget (we typically only get to spend around 10000 Turkish Liras = 680$ on the robot) they have to travel anything outside championship. Typically teams (including mine) start to raise the funding for travels after they qualify, because it’s much easier to convince sponsors if you tell them you qualified for World Championship. The real problem here is the costs being actually very extreme for Turkish teams to travel to US.

For context we managed to prepare a very reasonable (since we are a community team we can go very low cost compared to school teams) budget of 1300$ for every person travelling (~800$ being the flight tickets and rest for lowest cost available options of transportation, accommodation and other robot / team related logistics). We initially wanted to travel with 18 people out of 33 in our team. This makes around 23400$ + 5000$ registration which corresponds to 418,084 Turkish Liras as I’m writing. For context my mother (a 20+ year teacher) earns around 6,000 TL per month. This amount makes around 70 times a teacher’s income.


Post retracted by author: ot


This seems like the main issue. Traveling in general is very expensive, and expecting teams to stay in the U.S. for 2+ weeks if they qualify would be prohibitively expensive.

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Best approach here is for an impacted team to contact FIRST directly. My understanding is that they have experience dealing with this situation.


I’m assuming you’re getting B-2 tourist visas? They’re generally good for 10 years and multiple entries so I’d look at having your students apply as soon as they join the team if you think there’s any chance you will attend champs. That $160 application fee each isn’t trivial though.

International travel problems certainly aren’t unique to the US. Prior to Covid we were the 3rd most visited country in the world behind France and Spain, and considering the population differences between our close neighbors and theirs that’s impressive. Canadians don’t need tourist visas at all, and most(all?) of Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, among others can get a same day visa waiver online as long as they don’t trip a red flag. Covid restrictions have drastically reduced in person interviews world wide, and I don’t think FIRST HQ has any pull at all with the US State Department to override that.

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We are applying for a B1/B2 visa, and you are right that they are usually good for 10 years. It is super hard to get them without any invitation though, which you would typically get after you are invited to a regional or Worlds. That being said, we’ll probably consider and try doing something similar for next years.


As @vatanaksoytezer explained, getting a U.S. visa as a Turkish citizen is quite a lottery. There is a very high possibility of not getting a visa if you do not have solid travel plans soon. The consulate does not like giving out U.S. visas that easily. Also, even if they do, 10 years is not always the case. (It was much shorter for the people I know who got it without an invitation.) Also, 160 dollars is half the monthly minimum wage. The risks I mentioned usually (sadly but understandably) outweigh parents’ incentive to spare a decent portion of their income for a tentative robotics competition.