Consular Corner: November 2008
Grabbing the Bull by the HornsForm DS-156, the standard nonimmigrant visa application form, was at the center of scathing criticism levied by the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in April 2008. Calling the DS-156 "a form that only a consummate bureaucrat could earnestly defend," the Seventh Circuit condemned the use of bulletpoints containing multiple and compound questions relating to possible inadmissibility to the U.S. In the Court's opinion, the State Department's attempt to justify use of these questions was nothing less than "disingenuous." According to the court: "Although most of the bulletpoints incorporate multiple questions, and all of them include compound questions, the applicant must respond to each bulletpoint by checking a single box "yes" or "no." There is no means of giving independent answers to the varied questions within the same bulletpoints." The court likened these questions (which appear at item 38 of Form DS-156) to the following: "Is the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit located in Chicago, Illinois? Is Chicago's N.F.L. team named the Packers? Both responses would be correct. And, depending on who is scoring the answers, both responses also would be incorrect." In the case at hand, Christiana Atunnise, an "almost illiterate" applicant from Nigeria who speaks only limited English, had been found to have misrepresented a material fact by responding "no" to the second bulletpoint at item 38:
http://www.ca7.uscourts.gov/tmp/II0IKGJT.pdf To its very great credit, the State Department has grabbed the bull by the horns: the current draft of Form DS-160, which will eventually replace Form DS-156, has dropped the objectionable bulletpoints at Item 36 in favor of a series of single-sentence "yes" or "no" inquiries. Examples include:
http://consul-at-arms.blogspot.com What Americans Like "Expert" advice can also give rise to unreasonable client expectations: "The visa applicant needs to wear a formal dress at the time of interview with visa officer. As the visa officer is an American, the applicant should come for interview wearing a tie. This creates a positive impact in the mind of visa officer as the Americans always like formal dress up of an individual."
http://darticle.blogspot.com/2008/09/us-visa-interview-tips.html Let Us Always Be On Guard From a U.S. Consular Officer in Chile: "Distributed during training last year at the National Foreign Affairs Training Center, I never had the chance to read the 9/11 Commission Report and do it justice….The most chilling and disturbing part of the Commission's report is the supplemental book on the terrorists' travel patterns. As a consular officer in the Embassy, I particularly identified with my responsibility to keep those who want to do us harm out of our country. I was appalled at the lack of congressional will and funding in the years preceding 9/11 to update our consular systems and pay for our Foreign Service workforce, and the lack of inter agency cooperation that would have helped us identify the terrorists in the first place. Lack of funding and the State Department's pre-911 policies essentially forced officers to do more work with fewer resources than ever before. The constant push by authorities to issue visas and reduce visa refusals led to cracks in the system that were exploited. The scary thing is that it could happen again. As we expand America's virtual frontier past the physical borders, my colleagues and I are on the first-line defense to keep terrorists out of our country. After reading the 9/11 report, I have felt the burden to redouble my efforts to issue visas wisely to protect America and keep terrorists out. I am encouraged by the fact that just 3 days ago I came face to face with a known terrorist from a third country and using the mechanisms at my disposal, was able to deny him access to our country. But what scared me was the fact that at first glance, his demeanor and application seemed perfectly benign. Let us always be on guard."
http://www.fsoglobetrotter.com Vindication Back in 2003, the State Department faced significant shortfalls in the number and skills of Foreign Service Officers. Reporting on these shortfalls, the GAO called into question State's philosophy of hiring officers with a wide range of skills it believes are predictors of success - as opposed to hiring for specific skills, such as languages, which were badly needed. http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d04139.pdf If the Consular Officer who authored the above item ("Let Us Always Be On Guard") is any indication of the quality of people who have been hired, the only conclusion to be reached is that the Department's hiring philosophy has been more than vindicated. Teasing the Siblings Frank Baker, for nearly twenty years the principle State Department official responsible for controlling quota numbers, made the following comments in 1992 regarding family-based immigration. The comments, made when George H.W. Bush was President, hold true even now, as Barak Obama prepares to enter the Oval Office: "The law gives unmarried sons and daughters 21 years of age and over, as defined, of citizens first preference of 23,000 slots a year. And married sons and daughters of citizens, third preference of 23,000 slots a year. This, to me, is somewhat of a farce. Because a son or daughter is just that. Whether they're married or not. And they should be given the same status, or the non-quota status which will not delay the inevitable. In this particular time, both Republicans and Democrats alike, are stressing family ties, and family unity. What's wrong with an immigration law, stressing the same sentiments? It would go along way to reunite families, and give some hope that these brothers and sisters can eventually reach their dream of immigrating to the good old USA, instead of vegetating on the waiting list for ten years or more. If we can't absorb them in our communities, then we shouldn't tease them with saying you can immigrate in another ten years."
http://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/r?ammem/mfdipbib:@field(NUMBER+@band(mfdip+2004bak01)) My Mom was a Consular Officer Yes, the people who interview our visa clients love their children too: "When we lived overseas when I was growing up, my mom was a consular officer. Meaning she worked in the visa section of the embassy, reviewing and determining the applications of people who wanted to come to the United States to work or live or whatever. I'd go visit her at her office after school sometimes, and on my way through the security checkpoint into the embassy I'd pass huge long lines of people whose biggest dream was to come to America. And it made me feel proud and blessed to have been born a citizen of this wonderful country that so many people around the world wanted to be a part of."
http://wendyandjasongotohawaii.blogspot.com/2008/11/yes-we-can.html From the Consulates
Hyderabad, India: "The consulate of the United States of America (USA) was formally opened here Friday and it will start issuing visas from December this year. US Ambassador to India David C. Mulford raised the American flag over the new office of the US Consulate-General at Paigha Palace, a heritage building, in Begumpet, to formally inaugurate the facility. Consul General Cornelis M. Keur said the consulate general would start functioning in December this year and would initially handle 100 visa applications a day. The consulate will handle 300 applications from next year. "The consulate will start the operations with 12 US consul officials and 35 local staff members,' Keur said. Next year, the number of Americans will go up to 21 and the locals to 65."
http://www.sindhtoday.net/south-asia/30920.htm Ciudad Juarez, Mexico: "U.S. State Department officials unveiled a massive new consulate in Ciudad Juarez, a violent Mexican border town that is the world's busiest for immigrant visas. Consulate official Laura Dogu said the building has doubled capacity with more than 100 service windows and has made security improvements. The Juarez consulate is the world's busiest, handling the most immigrant visas of any such facility. It is the only site in Mexico to apply for a U.S. immigrant visa. The new gray building is several miles from the existing consulate, which sits in a busy part of central Ciudad Juarez. It is well away from crowded neighborhoods plagued by violence amid a bloody power struggle between drug cartels."
http://ap.google.com/article/ALeqM5ilxfpFaeze06R5PDLAMPLZLpGqXQD94CD6E80 Hong Kong Beginning November 24, 2008, the U.S. Consulate General in Hong Kong will use the new DS-160 application form. Only petition-based applicants (H, L, O, P, and Q visas) must use the new DS-160 application form; all other applicants may continue to use the DS-156 application form.
http://hongkong.usconsulate.gov/visa_services.html Are You Smarter Than A Junior Consular Officer? 1) Which U.S. Consul to England was the author of such works as The Scarlet Letter and The House of the Seven Gables? 2) Who was President at the time of enactment of the Immigration and Nationality Act? 3) Approximately 25% of all Americans arrested overseas are arrested in which consular district? (a) Beijing, China
(b) Istanbul Turkey
(c) London, UK
(d) Paris, France
(e) Tijuana, Mexico 4) Which of the following types of nonimmigrant visas may be applied for at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad? (a) Diplomatic and Government Officials
(b) U.S. Government-funded exchange visitors
(d) All of the above
(e) None of the above 5) True or false: under a deal worked out between the governments of the United States and Mexico, non-Mexican nationals ("third country nationals") in the United States, who wish to apply for U.S. visas in Mexico, are exempt from Mexican visa requirements. 6). Who is the only Secretary of State to have worked his/her way up through the ranks of the Foreign Service? 7) What is the name of the separate report within the Consolidated Consular Database (CCD), set up by the Department of State to provide consular posts with official, inter-agency, notification of H, L, O, P, and Q classification petition approvals? 8) All communication from USCIS to overseas IV processing posts is transmitted through which arm of the Department of State? 9) Which Federal statute bars the giving of benefits available to derivative family members under the INA, to a same-sex spouse legally married in Connecticut or other appropriate jurisdiction? 10) Which U.S. President was shot by a person upset because he had been denied the position as U.S. Consul in Paris? Consul and Counsel: A Roundtable Discussion Please join us on December 4, 2008 for a special roundtable discussion between Visa Consuls who are trained attorneys; and Visa Attorneys who were previously Visa Consuls. Panelists include Melissa Bishop (Deputy Visa Chief, Kingston); Matthew Cottrell (Chief of the Visa Unit, Vancouver); Steve Pattison (London, UK); and Rick Sindelar (Houston, Texas). More information on this discussion can be found here: http://www.ilw.com/seminars/october2008.shtm Top Ten Visa Wait Times at U.S. Consular Posts, November 2008 The big individual story is the one month drop in wait times in Port au Prince, from 70 days to only 30. Parenthetically, last November Port Au Prince posted wait times of 200 days. World-wide, the dramatic reduction in visa wait times continues, with most of the Top Ten entries coming in at 40-something.
Africa Kenya/Nairobi (41 days)
Europe and Eurasia Denmark/Copenhagen (38 days)
Middle East and North Africa UAE/Dubai (35 days)
East Asia and Pacific China/Beijing (28 days)
Central and South Asia Mumbai and New Delhi (14 days) Answers to "Are You Smarter Than A Junior Consular Officer?" 1) Nathaniel Hawthorne
2) Harry Truman; his veto of the bill was overridden by Congress.
5) Totally false.
6) Lawrence Eagleburger
7) Petition Information Management Service ("PIMS")
8) The National Visa Center
9) The Defense of Marriage Act (Public Law 104-199), which provides that the word 'marriage' means only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife.
10) President Garfield (shot by Charles Guiteau on July 2, 1881). Quote of the Corner "These are difficult and different times, and certain conveniences must be foregone." From remarks published in 2003 by the Department of State in defense of the decision to limit the privilege of automatic revalidation of visas.
http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/2003/03-21070.htm. All rights reserved to the author.
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