Quote of the day/week/however long

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

Monday, February 23, 2015

The Deep Blue Storm Effect, Twice Removed

Raise your hand if you remember blue sheets.

Oh crap. She's doing nostalgia again.

For the newer members of the consular service, blue sheets were the fourth or fifth carbon of the I-797 form, which - when sent by then-INS to the post that had issued the NIV - often provided a swift slap to the ego. There was little harder on a new and uncertain conoff than to receive one or (usually) several of these showing that NIV recipients had barely unpacked their suitcases in the US before applying for change of status.

To add further injury, the days of blue sheets were also the days when a conoff might  receive a cable from the Dark Lords of CA themselves, demanding to know why the officer had not applied 214(b) to what was, to them, obviously an intending immigrant. Madam remembers those (thankfully few) days with needlepoint clarity.

Can there be any doubt why the green, the desperate-to-do-the-right-thing, and now the shell-shocked might have refused just about everybody? And can we understand why, feeling surrounded, besieged, and traumatized by being lied to by grownups, they might have been less than kind, patient and thoughtful about it? And why the interview notes, scribbled in the margins of the OF-156, might have been less than diplomatic?

Eventually the process was partially computerized, so that interview notes went into the system, where they could be seen by CA. Then followed several years of scolding cables as CA took officers to task for unflattering, irrelevant and sometimes plainly offensive assessments of applicants' ties, appearances, and intentions as expressed in those notes. Many posts had even devised their own codes such as LP=looks poor, DH=dirty hands, VD=very dark (yes, complected), LC=looks cheap (yes, really), etc. to make the greet-then-refuse process most efficient.

Slowly, conoffs (mostly) stopped insulting the applicants while refusing them. At least, where anyone could catch them at it, such as in writing.

They also complained that writing out notes took a lot longer this way. They were right, for sure. But so it goes.

Now there is one more step. As of last week, all inquiries from the US about NIVs are to be directed to a Washington phone number. This means that many curious, confused, disgruntled or furious friends, relatives, or illegal employers of your 214(b)s will call a 202 number rather than the post in question. And employees who answer that 202 number might not be totally familiar with individual post's rapid-fire interview-and-refuse processes.

So by now, surely, all consular managers and supervisors have discussed this change with their line officers, who understand that their notes, more than ever, must clearly, calmly and succinctly specify how and why the applicant did not qualify for the visa requested. Because they don't want to get THAT call just as an earlier generation never wanted to get THAT cable.
But now all conoffs will explain even better than they've done before, right?

Excellent! Madam is proud of them. So should their supervisors be.

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