Quote of the day/week/however long

"Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does."
~William James

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Job Isn't Finished Until the Paperwork is ... Ignored

In July, Madam expressed very clearly her experienced opinion of the documents that applicants like to bring to their NIV interviews:

What is it about paper, that consular officers love it so much?  There is no document anywhere in the world that can't be produced on demand, either as a genuine document fraudulently issued, or as a work of art created by Madam's dear friend Ali on the Corner, all of whose children have graduated debt-free from good US universities thanks to their father's work.

If it's not a mandatory I-20, DS-2019, I-797 or the like, it is not just useless; it is a dangerous distraction.  Because let's be clear:  there is nothing about a piece of paper, however fancy, that will tell an officer anything about a visa applicant's intentions.  Documents are crutches; flipping through them to look for a reason to issue or refuse is a futile task.  A bank book, a job letter, a lease, a car title:  none of it means anything.  If the customer intends to stay in the US, he will willingly leave all those things behind - even if they really exist and he really owns them -  without a glance.  And besides, an officer's job is to interview applicants, not shuffle papers.

How do you resist the pull of papers?  Don't ask for them.  When offered, don't take them.  If refused applicants, in their later complaints, eventually get around to the worldwide whine "...and the officer didn't even look at my documents!" the proper response is, "the officer interviewed you."


Anonymous said...

I love the illustrating photo, so appropriate...

Anonymous said...

You are entitled to your opinion about the worth of documentary evidence. However, you should probably warn your readers that your refusal to look at documentary evidence is an illegal act:

22 C.F.R. § 41.105(a): "All documents
and other evidence presented by the alien, including briefs submitted by attorneys or other representatives, shall be considered by the consular officer."

Do you feel so strongly about the need to ignore this law that you are willing to resign?

Are there other laws applicable to your duties as a consular officer which you prefer to flout?

Madam le Consul said...

Temper, temper, temper.

Perhaps you aren't aware that experienced consular management, both overseas and in the Department, has long worked to discourage officers' dependence on miscellaneous papers rather than concentration on the applicant himself. This work has taken the form of ConGen training materials, CLDC presentations, and hands-on training of new officers at post for decades.

Perhaps everyone who has more than three consular tours' experience should resign. Would that make you feel less grumpy?

NoDoubleStandards said...

I have never based an adjudication on supporting documents. But one thing I LOVE to do with documents is develop questions in the seconds before the applicant shows up at the window. Those documents are supposed to contain basic facts about what an applicant owns, what he does, and so on. It's a very quick way to get to an applicant's credibility by asking questions based on the documents. Male fide applicants often know they own a Honda, where they bank, or how much they make at the job described in their employment letter...

SL said...

I think that most effective consular officers, in full compliance with 22 CFR 41.105(a), DO consider applicants' unnecessary docs. They consider that they don't need job letters or bank books to make a decision.

Anonymous said...

I agree that consular officers should not rely on documents to adjudicate. I find that when I find myself asking for documents from the applicant, it is usually a sign that I am not convinced of their story just based on what they are telling me. Therefore, I am learning to realize that this is a strong sign for a refusal. I am also trying to educate the applicants who complain about my resistance to look at their documents by explaining to them that the only requirements for an NIV visa are a valid passport and their electronic application signed under oath. We are trying to emphasize the importance of a fully-completed DS160, but there is a lot of outreach to be done on that front. The challenge for us as entry-level consular officers is to sharpen our interviewing skills so that we can be more productive, effective, and resist the temptation to request and/or accept documents.

NoDoubleStandards said...

Sorry, "often RARELY know"