The NIV chief had a problem. Her officers were having trouble getting away from their pro forma, routine questions (Got a job? Married?), and their reliance on job letters, bank statements, and prior travel to other countries. They were unconvinced by their chief's assurances that these customers might be deliberately fitting themselves into the patterns of their countrymen who had succeeded in obtaining US visas; they did not believe their applicants were that clever, or that their evidence could be fabricated.
After stewing for a while, the chief came up with a plan.
"Do this," she told the officers. "If you intend to refuse an applicant for any reason and if the passport is still pristine, tell him in exactly these words, 'I'm sorry but you don't qualify for a US visa. After all, you've never traveled out of your own country before. You've never even been to France.'"
The officers laughed and complied, because they liked her but still wanted to prove her wrong.
And guess what?
In less than a month, every single NIV applicant's passport showed a week's recent travel to France: a visa, and Charles de Gaulle airport arrival and departure stamps.
Faced with this phenomenon, the officers stepped out of their routines to ask questions whose answers surprised them. Where had the travelers stayed in France? With friends. What friends? Just friends. In what city? They didn't know; the friends 'took them around.' What had these travelers seen in France? They couldn't name a single sight.
Those visas and stamps? When turned over to the FSN investigator, they proved to be all masterful counterfeits.
Those officers are now scattered all over the world doing many kinds of interesting mid-level work, but every one of them remembers this experience with chagrin and gratitude. They call it The Day the Refusal Rate Went Up.