British student robbed, stabbed near Oak Street Beach must fly home to replace stolen visa

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Friday, November 6, 2015
"I guess I was trying to smile," Neil McCarthy said about this picture taken the night he was stabbed on Oak Street Beach.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Neil McCarthy has had a rough couple weeks.

First, he and his girlfriend were robbed while on vacation in Chicago last month. McCarthy, 27, fought back. He was stabbed and his British passport and student visa were stolen.

Now, thanks to U.S. law, the cash-strapped University of Minnesota student and British military veteran has to fly all the way home to replace his stolen visa, he said.

"It's super archaic. It's a piece of paper," McCarthy said. "It takes six weeks to get a passport back and the only way to get a visa is to go to London, get an interview, and wait around for a week."

His girlfriend, who is still shaken but was physically unharmed during the attack, had the idea of setting up a GoFundMe page to raise money for the unexpected trip back to England, he said. He thinks he'll need about $3,000.

"In my experience, the only thing that sucks harder than getting stabbed while defending your American girlfriend in an American city from American armed robbers, is the fact that America requires that you go back to England if you want any chance at replacing your stolen visa," he writes on the GoFundMe page.

According to U.S. law, a lost or stolen U.S. visa can only be replaced at a U.S. consulate or embassy abroad.

"Lost or stolen U.S. visas cannot be replaced in the United States," according to the State Department. "When applying for the replacement of a visa, you will need to provide a written account documenting the loss of your passport and visa. Include a copy of the police report."

McCarthy has quite the police report to share with the U.S. embassy in London. Despite being stabbed in the shoulder during the October 24, 2015, robbery in the Gold Coast, McCarthy tackled one of the offenders who returned to the scene- and held him for police.

McCarthy, who is studying security technologies at the University of Minnesota, has a military background. He spent five and a half years in the Royal Air Force. He served as an intelligence analyst and Pashto linguist in support of U.S. operations in Afghanistan.

"It sounds fickle, but I kind of miss the action of the military thing. Seeing what these cops in Chicago did, I'd love to do that. I'd love to become a cop," McCarthy said.

That, of course, would require McCarthy to finish his education, which would require obtaining another student visa, which requires the trip.

Even with that trip to London there's no guarantee McCarthy, who said his stab wound is "still yellow" but healing, will be issued another visa.

"This whole stabbing may result in me getting deported," he said. "Then I can't complete my degree. I would've literally wasted my life savings on half a degree."

McCarthy said he's tried calling the U.S. State Department, but hasn't been able to actually speak with someone. Despite all that, he wants to continue to study in the U.S. - and said he'd even visit Chicago again.

"I'd be a bit more careful. I'm thinking about learning a martial art. I've wanted a hobby, so this is the motivation," he said.