Consular Corner: February 2009
Ten Years to 99 State 21138
Department of State cable 99 State 21138 was issued ten years ago this month. Entitled "Working Constructively With Immigration Attorneys" the cable highlights the importance to the visa application process of the working relationship between consular officers and immigration attorneys. The guiding hand behind 99 State 21138 was the late Stephen K. Fischel, who throughout three decades of service at the Department did more than anyone to promote the relationship between consul and counsel.
To mark the anniversary, we present some of the pearls of policy wisdom provided by 99 State 21138:
Visas and Sleep-walking (Consular Officers)
"Consul-at-Arms," who has done more than anyone to promote public awareness of the professionalism of consular officers, offers the following counsel on the nature of the visa function:
"The idea that 'stamping visas' is merely a form of serving time, a rite of passage for new FSOs crops up fairly often, sometimes even among actual FSOs (who should know better).
First, if all you're doing is 'stamping' visas, then you're doing it wrong. Vice consuls and other visa adjudicators are expected to apply the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 (as amended, and boy is it ever) and related regulations (found in the Foreign Affairs Manuals, the Foreign Affairs Handbook, scores of SOPs and tables, and hundreds of cables) in order to facilitate legitimate travel to the U.S. while serving as the first-line of border security.
So if you're doing it right, it's not exactly sleep-walking. This is serious business; nobody wants to import foreign criminals, terrorists, or even extra economic migrants; the U.S. domestic supply will suffice."
Visas and Sleep-walking (Immigration Attorneys)
There are all too many immigration attorneys who need to wake up to the reality that the visa function is much more than "stamping visas." Take, for example the following email from immigration attorney to visa applicant client:
"Congratulations on approval of your L-1B petition. You will be responsible for picking up the visa at the U.S. consular post abroad. This is mostly a formality, but you will need to secure an appointment with the U.S. consular post in order to do so. You should visit the Department of State website at www.travel.state.gov for information on visas."
An attorney's failure to properly prepare a client for the visa application process is disturbing. Knowing that the consular officers interviewing our clients consider their function as serious business, why would we ever assume that the visa application process is a sleep-walk?
BTW - the applicant in the above email was denied the L-1B visa.
Lift Every Voice and Sing
The Rev. Joseph Lowery began his benediction at the Presidential inauguration last month by quoting from a song, "Lift Every Voice and Sing." Interesting to note that "Lift Every Voice and Sing" was written by James Weldon Johnson, who served as a United States Consul.
In fact, James Weldon Johnson wasn't just a U.S. Consul; he was the first African American to be admitted to the Florida bar (in 1897). In addition to his foreign service and legal careers, Mr. Johnson was also (are you holding your breath?) a poet, novelist, editor anthologist, lyricist, and professor. Talk about the best and the brightest! http://iis.stat.wright.edu/mlk/AA_NationalAnthem.htm
Parenthetically, the lyrics to "Lift Every Voice and Sing" can be found here:
US Embassy Baghdad Video
An interesting look inside the new U.S. Embassy in Baghdad is provided by the following news report. The Embassy cost us $700 million and is home to a staff of 1,200 men and women. The report notes that the Embassy already seems cramped, with people doubling-up both in office and residential spaces. For some reason, the fact that the Embassy dining hall has an ice cream bar attracted the special attention of the reporter. http://www.foxnews.com/video2/video08.html?maven_referralObject=3555355&maven_referralPlaylistId=&sRevUrl=http://www.foxnews.com/story/
The U.S. Consulate General in Jeddah has resumed partial non-immigrant visa services, with the hope of returning to full visa services in 2010. The non-immigrant visa unit in Jeddah has been closed in the aftermath of the December 2004 terrorist attack on the Consulate in which five employees were killed and others wounded. The Consulate will now begin processing a maximum of 300 applications per month, from a restricted category of visa applicants.
Are You Smarter Than A Junior Consular Officer?
Top Ten Visa Wait Times at U.S. Consular Posts, February 2009
The Man on the Moon could look at the top half of this list and say "sure, makes sense - these are all countries which are state sponsors of terrorism or which sent 9/11 hijackers or are on the "outs" politically with the U.S. Not sure what he would say about the bottom half of the list, other than that perhaps the posts in Canada should be getting more resources.
Top Wait Times by Region:
The Americas (excluding Cuba) Venezuela/Caracas (200 days)
Answers to "Are You Smarter Than A Junior Consular Officer?"
1) The thumb. http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/88015.pdf
Quote of the Corner
"The INA and its underlying bureaucracy is often compared to the Internal Revenue Code as being one of the two most complicated statutes in the U.S. code. The employment of a lawyer does not constitute a red flag or signal the existence of a problem in the case." 99 State 21138.
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