Re: IETF 107 and Corona Virus?

John C Klensin <john-ietf@jck.com> Fri, 14 February 2020 01:15 UTC

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Date: Thu, 13 Feb 2020 20:15:43 -0500
From: John C Klensin <john-ietf@jck.com>
To: Job Snijders <job@instituut.net>
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Subject: Re: IETF 107 and Corona Virus?
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--On Thursday, February 13, 2020 16:34 -0600 Job Snijders
<job@instituut.net> wrote:

> On Thu, Feb 13, 2020 at 16:16 John C Klensin <john@jck.com>
> wrote:
> 
>> (ii) that we not
>> pretend that refunding the registration fees of those whose
>> visas are denied covers the potential costs to participants
>> who make arrangements to attend and then are forced to
>> cancel...
> 
> If you need a visa, generally it is not recommended to book
> travel or make arrangements before getting that visa approved.
> Assuming a "visa on arrival" always has risks associated.

Of course.  But that is not what I was saying.  At the cost of
more words, let me explain.  There are really two groups of
cases:

Group 1 - the visa situation:

If I need a visa, apply for one, pay the early registration fee,
and then the visa is denied (or just does not come through), the
IETF will refund the registration fee (this, as Jay's note
pointed out, has been IETF policy for a long time).  My booking
travel or making other non-refundable arrangements before the
visa arrives would be inadvisable, as you suggest, except that,
as Ole points out, that may be impossible in practice.  In
addition, making no arrangements before the visa is approved
would be almost certain to force one past the (now-expired)
early registration deadline, so the IETF's refund policy is a
good one.  However, if one delays making, e.g., air reservations
until the visa is approved and the visa doesn't arrive until
just before the last possible time to travel to the meeting, the
only available airfares could quite possibly be premium ones --
enough more expensive relative to fares available before the
visa application was completed to exceed the cost of the
registration fee.  So there is something of a gamble there and
the refundable registration fee doesn't really solve the
potential problem.    And my comment about refunding the
registration fees if visas are denied not eliminating the
financial risk still apply.

Those scenarios have almost nothing to do with the Corona Virus
situation except insofar as some countries react by denying
visas to much larger numbers of people, perhaps by origin
country.


Group 2 - the virus situation:

Now consider someone who successfully obtains a visa (or does
not need one), makes air and hotel reservations, and arrives at
the airport intending to fly to the meeting.  Then, because of
policy shifts, they are either denied boarding or arrive in the
destination country and are denied admission and sent home or,
worse, locked up somewhere for 14 days. Every country that I
know of reserves the right to do such things, visa or no visa,
if they believe or claim there is a significant public health
concern or some other issue.  The air fare is probably lost
(airlines may refund it as a good will measure but are not
required to do so, especially if the flight was already taken).
At least part of the hotel booking fees are lost because the
cancellation deadline was before the intended departure time.
Does the IETF refund the registration fee?  Current policy is, I
think, ambiguous, but the point was that, relative to those
other costs, the registration fee may be a drop in that
particular bucket.

And _that_ was the point I was trying to make.  If things get
complicated with visa delays, visas being canceled after being
issued, people being denied entry despite having visas, people
being forced to make potentially non-refundable airplane
reservations in order to obtain visas, or late meeting
cancellations,  let's not pretend that offering to refund the
registration fee under some circumstances eliminates the
financial damage.   

And I am _not_ predicting any of those things will happen.   I
am just pointing out that they are all within the realm of
possibility for some IETF participants and that, especially if
we continue to insist that people participate as individuals
(whether that is true for individual cases or not), there can be
significant financial and other costs and the IETF probably has
some responsibility for its actions other than "we will refund
the registration fee if you apply for a visa and don't get it".

best,
  john