Saturday, March 27, 2010

Funny Visa Stories

SassAndSweet had a post this week about how everyone who has done a consular tour has been lied to. A lot. Like many many times per day.

And usually (I hope) badly. Of course, we wouldn't know if it was a good lie, right?

I worked the visa line in Jerusalem for 18 months before getting a chance to do some political work. In that amount of time, I did approximately 20,000 adjudications. Not a lot for a visa mill, but a helluva lot for Jerusalem. The only person in the system who had done more than I did was there for four years.

So you get lied to, and sometimes it is comical. You develop games to fake them out. "Is the computer going to tell me you worked in the US the last time you were there?" No, it isn't generally, but they don't know that. A friend of mine used to hand them the mouse and tell them it was a lie detector. That worked too. I made "priests" recite the Hail Mary (one real one asked if that was how I got people to pray for me and I said whatever works! I'll take all the help I can get!). I asked one priest who said he was going to help with Easter services when Easter was that year. He didn't know (and he had forged documents).

I am sure I missed one lie. Once I issued the visa, the girl ran from the window screaming a delighted "WWWWhhhhhheeeeeeeeeeee!" I'd really like to have that one back.

But sometimes the funniest ones are when then think telling you the truth will get them a visa.

"So your form says the last time you were in the US, you stayed 14 years. Is that correct?"


"Did you have a visa?"

"No, I crossed the Rio Grande." [Note: this was in Jerusalem that I got this answer.]

"I see. And you have been back 2 months?"


"And you want me to give you a visa?"

"Yes" Smiles broadly.


"But I told the truth!"

Yes you did. And the truth may set you free, but it also gets you a 10 year ban to re-entry.

Your turn. Share some funny visa stories.


hannah said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
losttraveler said...

You can be expelled for public masturbation? Wow, I totally dodged a bullet! J/K

My crazy visa story is so convoluted I'm not even sure I can explain it correctly...but I'll try.

I was the sole Consular Officer in an obscure West African country on my first consular tour when one day I received a request from DHS/ICE to issue visas to seven young men who were suspected heroin mules. ICE wanted the visas issued so that the young men could be arrested at the point of entry with the hopes that they would be able to provide more information on this new major drug ring.

I contacted the Regional Consular Officer up in Europe to ask for guidance and was told that I would have to do a silent waiver for the drug trafficker ineligibility and to go ahead and issue the visas. I gave the RSO and the DCM a heads up.

The following day seven young men who were between the ages of 18-20 and had absolutely no ties came in and I requested to interview them. My staff thought I had gone completely insane when they saw me issue seven visas in a row to obvious 214B cases. My consular associate, with whom I had had a difficult supervisory relationship, immediately assumed that I was involved in some sort of visa fraud/visas for sale scam, and reported me to the ARSO (I was related to the RSO so she didn't want to report me to him) who contacted DS and then opened up a visa fraud investigation against me. Note that there were only three people in the Embassy who were aware of this: me, the RSO and the DCM. I told no one in my section because of the nature of the investigation.

Fast forward several months. I get a call from an ICE agent at the port of entry, informing me that the seven young men had shown up however they were NOT drug mules! They had posed as drug mules and pretended to have information in order to get visas to the U.S. to apply for asylum at the port of entry! Talk about clever.

DS was livid, and interviewed me to figure out what the heck had happened. Both CA and DS were livid because ICE had not followed the proper notification protocol. I was completely off the hook because I had documented everything and notified the right people ahead of time. I just got the wrong guidance.

And THAT is how I once issued visas to asylum seekers posing as drug traffickers.

Anonymous said...

I enjoy your blog. I do not have a visa story from the side of an FSO however I have it from the side of an applicant. I respect the work you do and understand that you face many challenges in the form of trying to decipher who is telling the truth and not and that everybody that is truthful cannot get a visa. I had the misfortune to encounter a consular officer in an East African country who accused me of lying and submitting fraudulent documents to get a spousal visa and even threaten to have me arrested, I knew I was telling the truth and I told her to have me arrested (I am an American and have numerous friends that are lawyers). She could do nothing and later I was cleared me of all the lies and the visa was issued however not without scaring my relationship. My experience hurt me not because of the accusation because I knew I was being truthful but I thought of the many people who tell the truth and are threaten and intimidated and give up on attaining a better education, visiting family, just want to travel the world or an opportunity for a better life. I only ask that you and your consular friends respect the people that come to your window. Think about it you are an American and you can travel anywhere in the WORLD you want (granted in funds allow). Two-thirds of the people in the world do not have that privilege.

Daniel M. Hirsch said...

I have two favorite stories, one NIV one IV.

NIV: I had an applicant at my window, a nice, married, propertied middle-aged woman. I would look at her through the window, ask a question, she would give me a document, I would look down to my form to make notes, then look up at her again and ask another question. About the fourth or fifth question, I look up from making notes and she's gone! Where did she go? The crowd in the waiting room points to the floor under the visa window (which I can't see due to the ledge). She had just given me "proof" of where her husband was employed, and while I was copying from it, she had quietly fainted dead away! Turns out, of course, that hubby was in the US illegally, she had given me false docs, and the strain had been too much for her.

IV: I had an IV applicant that could well have been a drug dealer. He was from a town particularly known for drug gangs and smugglers. In a tropical climate, he came in wearing leather pants, a leather jacket (open to the waist), no shirt, about two pounds of gold chains, and sunglasses. I asked him to remove his glasses and he refused. He was consistently rude and arrogant, basically treating me as his servant. His mom was a recently-minted US citizen, he was her unmarried child, I "had" to give him a visa, so f#@k me! All the papers appeared in order, but wait, what's this? He was supposed to be the unmarried child of a US citizen, but his divorce had become final two months after the petition had been filed! The petition was invalid! I escorted him to the door. As he stepped through the doorway to leave, he suddenly whirled, fell to the ground, grabbed one of my feet, and sobbed out a gigantic "PLEEEEEEEESE! FORGIVE ME!" I shook my foot loose, said "You have lied to the US Government. There can be no forgiveness here" and closed the door. About half the folks in the waiting room immediately got up and left.

Anonymous said...

losttraveler, that story is AMAZING.

Diplodocus said...

I second Anonymous. losttraveler, your story is getting passed around our consular section this morning. Jawdropping.

Anonymous said...

Once again, AWESOME post and conversational comment thread!

Love this stuff!

Anonymous said...

I'm not a consular officer, but while serving in china I stopped by the section to pick up my friend for lunch. The office was in stitches. What's going on? Well, my friend just finished an interview wherein the applicant happily related his last trip to the US. "What did you do on your last trip to America?" "I was on a sex tour of the whole southwest!"