Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Days of My Life

We don't get a whole lot of nonimmigrant visa applications in Conakry. We don't do immigrant visas at all. There aren't all that many Americans in the country who need our attention. What, then, do I fill my days with? Visas 92 and 93. These aren't actually visas, strictly speaking, but special travel documents allowing the spouses and children of asylees and refugees to join their family member in the United States. If you're interested in the details you can find them here, though it's not exactly compelling reading. These things were mentioned exactly once in ConGen, where they told us not to worry about them because we'd probably never see one. Ha.

Each case has a ton of paperwork and several agencies and offices get involved, but essentially my job as the consular officer is to make sure that the documents go only to those who are eligible: the petitioner's spouse and any children who were under 21 at the time of asylum. Sounds simple right? It's not. Fraud and fake documents are rampant in Guinea, so it's hard to tell if a "wife" or "husband" is REALLY the petitioner's spouse or is in fact a sibling or a cousin or a neighbor or a complete stranger posing as a spouse to get to America. Ditto for kids: DNA testing is a lifesaver for picking out the biological children, but stepkids and adoptions are trickier cases. And maybe the woman at my window really is the petitioner's wife, but she's the second or third (concurrent) wife and the U.S. only lets you have one at a time.

Dealing with the 92/93 caseload is like daytime TV: a crime investigation drama, a soap opera, and a talk show all rolled into one. I've only just gotten started thinning out the piles on my desk and I've already got enough liars, cheaters, imposters, secret spouses, and who's-the-father reveals to fill a whole season of Maury. It can be kind of fun - solving puzzles, indulging in a little voyeurism - but the painstaking process of going through the file page by page and putting all the pieces together is often a major headache and can take forever. And the pile just seems to keep growing. I guess that's job security.


  1. Oh man, I miss the soap opera that is visas 92/93 processing.

  2. I'm so glad I found this blog. I just passed the FSOT and have my PNQs (Consular track) due on Nov. 15. One of the first questions is "Why Consular?" and your blog is helping me to get a real sense of what it's like in the field. Thank you so much for deciding to share your experiences.