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Doing NIV Interviews At US Embassy In Seoul: A Primer

by Young H. Noh

If your client actually wants you to fly down to Korea to accompany his or her NIV interview, you should first be congratulated for retaining such a rich client.

Where the Embassy is located

The Embassy is located near "Kwang-hwa-moon", next to "Kyo-bo" or across the street to "Sejong" Performing Arts Center. For foreigners, just tell the Korean taxi driver "Kwang-Hwa-Moon, Mi-Dae-Sa-Kwan". The word "Mi-Dae-Sa_Kwan" means "American Embassy". You can't miss it because you will see many Korean security guards in blue uniform near the two gates of the Embassy building. I always feel bad for them, standing there so stiffly, especially during cold weather. Sometimes I wonder why so many of them have to stand there. There are two gates to the Embassy building. One gate near the big main road is for Embassy workers and American Citizens. The second gate next to a smaller but still large road is for NIV and IV interviewees. You will see a long line of plastic seats against the building wall. One pointer: If for some reason, you forgot to bring NIV fee stamps, you can easily buy these from several Korean woman vendors. One elderly Korean woman in particular is very aggressive in selling these NIV fee stamps and you are likely to bump into her as she will likely come up to you to ask if you need the Fee Stamps.

What you should bring

  • NIV Packet
  • Passport
  • G-28
  • Courier receipts
  • Proof that you are a US attorney
Recommended place to meet your client

I recommend a Starbucks store located about 70 meters from "Sejong" Performing Arts Center. (Please note that I am not affiliated with Starbucks, although I believe they should strongly consider making me an honorary member with discounted prices for inducing so many Korean clients to drink at their places whether they like their coffee or not.) The reason I recommend this place because they are open early and have 1st, 2nd and 3rd floor with decent bathrooms. And most Koreans know Starbucks coffee stores. Make sure you tell your clients your cellular number and obtain your clients' cellular number so either of you can call each other if the other person does not show up on time. Sometimes, my clients end up going to another Starbucks located at another location.

Standing in line and entering the Building

If there is a standing line outside, then counsel and the clients must wait in line like everyone else. However, if the interview is for E or H-1B visas, then the counsel and the client are permitted to "cut" in front of the line (you might receive some nasty stares from people standing in line) to show appropriate identification documents to the security officer (usually an older Korean gentleman in blue uniform sitting behind a glass window). You should turn off your cellular and tell the clients to do the same and get your passport, G-28 and clients' identification documents ready. After you are allowed to enter the building, there will be a security check where you will put your bags through a security machine. Then you enter another door to get inside actual building. As soon as you enter the inside of the building, you will see a small Seattle Coffee shop to your right. I feel bad for this particular owner (if there is one), because hardly anyone buys coffee from this place. I thought about this and arrived at the conclusion that for most Koreans, interviewing for a visa is a stressful experience, and usually they are too nervous to drink coffee before the interview, and after the interview, they are all too happy to quickly get out of the building.

If your case involves F or B1/B2 visas, then you will have to show basic documents at the first floor and get an interviewing number at the third floor and then go down to the 2nd floor and wait for your number to flash telling you to walk up to a particular interviewing window pane. However, if your case concerns an E, H or L visa, then you can walk up directly to 2nd floor and sit down near Window 2 and wait for your client's name to be called.

Second Floor

This floor is where all NIV interviews take place. There are approximately 13 to 15 interviewing windows, and almost all interviews are conducted with you and your client standing, facing the consular officer and the translators beside each other behind the window. Usually, all the seats on the second floor will be full or near full, and you might have to wait standing up. This is one reason why you should not enter the Building too early before your time. For example, if your interview time is 10:20 AM, then I would advise you to enter the building around 10:10 AM.

Actual interview

If your case involves E, H or L visa, then your client's name will be called from Window 2. They will first take fingerprints of your client, spouse and children over 14 years old. If your case involves F-1 visa or B1/B2 visa, then you will have to wait for your number to flash on the interview number indicator before you walk up to the designated window. The actual interview probably will not last more than 10 minutes. You can just state that you are an attorney of record, but you should not interrupt answers or questions. You should just stand beside your client and be courteous and have any documents ready in case the consular officer wants to see a particular document. Most consular officers (especially the Gold Team which interviews and handles E, H and L visas) at the Seoul Embassy are, from my own experience, professional and courteous. It appears to me that the Embassy has gotten a lot more courteous over the last several years because I believe the higher management actually takes the issue of being courteous very seriously, and I would be surprised if an attorney or anyone for that matter received a rude treatment. However, you should not expect any favorable treatment because you are an attorney. However, if some misunderstanding occurs during the interview, you might want to politely ask the consular officer if you can add some remark. Also, at the end of interview, you can add additional information.

Picking up passports

All nonimmigrant visas are delivered now through courier services within 3 or 4 days from the interview. Unless there is some sort of emergency, it is not permissible to wait to pick up the visa stamped passports.

Dealing with denials

Hopefully, a denial is 221(g) denial, meaning you have an opportunity to submit additional info/docs requested. You do not have to pay NIV fees again with the denials. You or your client (most times, the Embassy contacts the client even if G-28 is submitted) will be contacted usually within 2 weeks for a re-interview.

One word of advice

I would strongly recommend that counsels stay away from representing "dog" cases or coaching clients to say something that is not true. This is not only unethical but unwise in the long run. Representing too many "dog" cases will not be good for your reputation. Although it is advisable that you thoroughly go over the relevant issues with your clients, a counsel should never, never attempt to coach clients to tell untruthful statements. Any cases where you have to tell untruthful statements to get visas should be dropped by counsels like hot potatos.

Although the issues relate specifically to the case of E-2 visa applicants in Korea, the situations described are not by any means exclusive to the Embassy in Korea, nor to E-2 visa applicants.

About The Author

Young H. Noh is an expat U.S. attorney working and residing in Korea. He is co-author of the Chapter on American Embassy in Seoul in Visa Processing Guide published annually by AILA. Young Noh represents Korean clients with their immigration and visa cases and also works with Korean-licensed attorneys to represent non-Korean clients with business and litigation cases involving Korean law. Mr. Noh can be reached at:

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of ILW.COM.

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