I planed to present a paper at some ASME conference. After the paper got accepted, I completed the registration and book the airticket and everything. Then, comes the problem of US visa application. As I come from a developing country, the US embassy did not issue me a visa on the spot, but put me through administrative processing. I have waited almost a month and nothing came back. I fear that I might not be able to get the visa before the conference begins. So I started considering cancelling the registration. However, to my surprise, the conference says that refund is not possible within a month before the conference starts.

So I contacted the conference program chair, which is a very rude lady and she blamed me for everything. She said they have strict rules in order to maintain a high standard of their organization. This is, to me, a ill logic. ASME could maintain a high standard only because they have high standard journals, which in turn is because there are contributors like me who would work as reviewers for free. Yet, in the end, they overcharge the publication fee, the registration fee, and refuse to refund me even when it is not my fault.

I think their cancellation policy is very discriminating, because it does not take into consideration the difficulties some of the conference participants from developing countries face. It is a policy that discourages people from developing countries to attend their conference. If I realize how unreasonable and rude these people are, I would have never considered attending the conference in the first place.

Now that I have learned my lesson, is there anything I can do to have my money back? Is there somewhere to complain?

Update: the issue is finally solved. ASME finally agreed to reimburse me the registration fee. This at least shows that they can be reasoned with, but not without some persistence.

One last comment about the status of the post. I definitely think that my experience could help other researchers from 3rd world country to cope with similar situations. So it is definitely not off-topic.

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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it has nothing to do with academia. – Fábio Dias Jul 14 '17 at 15:31
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    @FábioDias Visa troubles are something that every graduate student and academic needs to learn how to deal with. It's a practical consideration no less relevant for researchers and grad students than teaching and writing papers. Students from China, India, Africa, etc. have extra hazards for doing their grant-obligated networking and dissemination that their western colleagues take for granted. – David Jul 14 '17 at 16:02
  • @David but it has nothing to do with academia. A salesman for Boeing probably has the same issues, but it has nothing to do with aviation.... and I'm Brazilian, which gets me free pass for Europe, but not US, so I'm fairly familiar with this situation.... – Fábio Dias Jul 14 '17 at 16:14
  • @FábioDias on MO, questions not directly about mathematics but about things a mathematician could find it interesting are sometimes on-topic. Not sure about academia SE. – user109420 Jun 12 '19 at 20:09

You won't get your money back and complaining isn't going to ingratiate yourself to the conference organizers or to your colleagues. Less than a month from the conference it's likely that your money has already been spent, which is why they can't refund it.

The conference vendors need deposits to cover their own expenditures. It's paying for the meeting rooms at the conference venue, it's been spent on food that has already been ordered, and it's paying for personnel contracts that have already been signed far in advance. Any money that isn't paid as a deposit is likely contractually obligated at the end of the conference.

Sorry about your visa troubles- this is not an unusual problem for academics in certain countries, particularly since a lot of conferences take place in the US or the European Schengen area.


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