2 June 2007

state.gov oblivious of Firefox?

What happens if you are a Linux user with Firefox and have scheduled a non-immigrant visa for the U.S.A? Well, you end up unable to fill up the DS-156 visa application with your computer running Linux!

After you get your appointment date fixed (online) you are informed that you need to fill up the DS-156 form (no handwritten versions allowed). But if you go to evisaforms.state.gov and you are using anything other than IE or Netscape as your browser, you are out of luck. I used Firefox (both Debian's Iceweasel and mozilla.org's Firefox) to access the page and was warned that my browser does not meet the minimum requirements. Below you can see a screenshot of the warning window.

As a matter of fact Firefox does support 128bit encryption (actually much more than that) and I also have the Acrobat Reader plugin installed (version 7.0). The problem here is the sniffing code on their website. The code just checks for IE5.0SP2 or later and for Netscape 6 or later. There is absolutely no sniffing going on for Firefox (neither Windows nor Linux) which is used by more than 10% of web surfing users (> 15% in the USA). The Acrobat plugin code is written in such a way that it will never say that your Firefox has the plugin installed.

If you carry on and fill up the DS-156 form, you will be taken back to main page without any of your form data being processed for the final pdf file. I tried to fill the form twice thinking that the first time there might be some session time limit which I over ran. Finally, I had to borrow someone's laptop with Windows OS on it and used Internet Explorer to get the form in pdf!

The result of the low quality code used for the site results in Firefox users not being able to get the .pdf for DS-156 after filling up the form. Windows users can still use Internet Explorer but Linux users are left completely helpless. How is it that US Department of State is oblivious of the existence of Firefox and that there are other operating systems than Windows too?

I wonder if Matt Frei used Firefox to setup his visa renewal appointment.

1 comment:

Tanya said...

Did I find you? I think so. This is Tanya and I think I did something to edit my blog as you asked. Actually, I have no idea what I did but I followed your instructions. Please let me know if I need to do something else. Thank you!