Mongolian Counter-Strike Team Denied Visas Because They Might Not Leave The United States

It’s a regular story around esports that one team or another has been denied visas for entry into an international tournament. What you don’t hear often is the news that a team was denied visas because they couldn’t show they would have returned home.

TheMongolz made waves in the Counter-Strike community when they summarily dismissed their Australian opponents at IEM Taipei at the start of the month. It was a thorough slapping that ended up convincing — after substantial public pressure — some roster changes in the Australian scene.

As part of their first-place prize, the Mongolian CS team earned a ticket to the MLG Columbus Valve-sponsored major, which now has a US$1 million prize pool. Unfortunately, that meant they had to get visas in order to enter the United States.

Something the US Embassy has refused to grant them — three times.

The rejection happened because, according to the rejection letter posted online by a member of the Mongolian team, the players and organisation weren’t able to show that they were able to return to Mongolia after the tournament

According to the rejection letter, applications for non-immigrant visas have to show that they live in a foreign country that they have no intention of abandoning. “You have not demonstrated that you have the ties that will compel you to return to your home country after your travel to the United States,” the letter continues.

Even though professional gamers have received sports visas in the past, the US Embassy still isn’t 100% on board with esports as a profession. It’s likely in this instance, as has happened to other players, that consular officials reviewed their applications, saw a bunch of young adults with little work experience or university degrees and figured the whole Counter-Strike thing 100% above board.

As they do for other teams, Major League Gaming and Valve tried their hardest to help out. According to MLG Adam Apicella, the two organisations submitted information and documents. MLG called the US Embassy; a representative of Congress even tried to pitch in.

After the second rejection, the team tried to get support through social media. Some high profile Mongolian figures, including Ard Financial Group CEO Ganhuyag Hutagt, joined forces with the public in lobbying the US Embassy. A lot of it wasn’t well targeted though, with many tweets not mentioning the embassy’s Twitter account or the embassy at all. Some users even began lobbying tournament organisers ESL for help, even though the Columbus Major isn’t their event.

While Mongolz tried a third and final time to get visas — which proved to be a fruitless exercise — MLG began the process of finding a replacement. But the circus hadn’t stopped with Mongolz, as the teams next in line couldn’t make it either.

First in line was CyberZen, who finished 3rd-4th at the IEM Taipei qualifier behind MongolZ and Renegades (the Australians who finished 2nd). Renegades already had an invite to MLG Columbus as part of their prize, so the Chinese team were deemed the next port of call.

Unfortunately, being Chinese makes last-minute visas to the United States an utter nightmare. Chinese teams have been denied entry into the United States since the beginning of esports, and it wasn’t a situation that was going to change this week. So MLG turned to Chiefs, the Australian team who was next in line.

Sadly, they weren’t able to go either. It’s not known whether the possibility of travelling to the United States using the ESTA program was raised, or whether the risk of doing so (since it’s possible be turned away at immigration) was considered too great.

Mongolz are still trying their best to secure visas for the IEM Katowice tournament in Poland. The team is journeying to China today to secure those visas though, as Poland doesn’t have an embassy in Mongolia. The team’s social media coordinator told me that Polish — or really, entry into the European Union — visas should be easier to acquire, making their presence at Katowice more probable.

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