Saturday, March 28, 2015

On the Line

At the beginning of the month I switched from American Citizen Services to Visas, where I'll be for the rest of my tour. March to May is J1 season, our busiest time for visas. Thousands of Irish college students are getting ready to spend the summer in the States, waiting tables at Irish bars in Boston or Chicago, or renting out beach umbrellas in Ocean City or Santa Barbara. And every last one of them needs a visa to do it.

I did visa interviews as part of my consular year in Conakry, but this is very different. There's the volume for starters: in Conakry I barely did 50 a week, but I'm now hitting around 150 a day. It's so much TALKING. Every day for the first week or so I didn't want to do anything after work but lie quietly in a dark room and decompress. Outside of the J1s Dublin also sees a much greater variety of visa applicants than we got in Conakry, which means you really have to know the whole range of visa regulations front to back.

This was all a little overwhelming at the beginning, but I'm starting to get into the flow now I think. Dozens and dozens of J1 interviews back to back get a little repetitive, but the applicants are all so happy and excited about the great summer they'll be having in America that I can't help but be happy and excited for them too. The fact that I'm planning my own American summer - a few weeks in Texas and an Old South road trip - doesn't hurt. I may even come across an Irish accent or two at the beach in South Carolina, and I'll know I helped get them there.

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