What do you do, exactly?

I am serving as a consular officer while I’m in Mexico, which means that I’m adjudicating visa applications.  I have worked in both the non-immigrant visa (NIV) and the immigrant visa (IV) sections since getting here.  Non-immigrant visas are visas for people who will not be immigrating and will leave the US after a certain time.  Tourist visas, student visas, and work visas with a limited validity are all NIVs.  IVs are visas that allow the person to take up residency in the US after the visa is approved and to stay indefinitely as long as they don’t do something to have their residency revoked.  IVs include family members of US citizens or permanent residents and employment visas that allow the person to continue to work in the US indefinitely.

NIV and IV applications start with different assumptions.  For most catagories of NIVs, the law stipulates that it is assumed that the applicant is an intending immigrant unless they convince the consular officer otherwise by demonstrating strong ties to their home country and possibly by showing that they’ve had previous visas and have not misused them.  In IVs, the required documentation has been reviewed and approved by US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) before it gets to us and it is assumed that the applicant is eligible for the visa unless the consular officer finds that the applicant has committed some sort of fraud and does not have the required family relationship or employment qualifications or that the applicant is otherwise ineligible for the visa due to any of the other visa ineligibilities (more on visa ineligibilities in the future, probably).

There are pros and cons to adjudicating both types of visas. In NIVs, the burden of proof is on the applicant and you can refuse a person under assumption that they’re an intending immigrant if you doubt their intent.  For example, if someone claims to be an accountant but doesn’t know anything about what an accountant does and claims to make a salary much higher than an accountant would make here, they haven’t convinced the officer that they are who they say they are.  If you can tell that the person is not being honest about their encounters with Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) or Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), you can also refuse them because they haven’t convinced the officer that they’re being truthful about possible ineligibilities or other things on their application. Also, there’s not much paperwork involved, so you’re expected to move through those cases a lot faster which can be draining.

In IVs, you have to review all of the paperwork they’ve submitted to USCIS and resolve any possible ineligibilities.  So, you see fewer people in a day but spend a lot more time with the cases and can’t just refuse someone because the story doesn’t add up.  So, if you can tell that the person has entered the US illegally multiple times, but they refuse to admit it, you can spend a lot of time going in circles with them about what exactly happened before finally determining which, if any, ineligibilities apply in their case.  IVs can be more frustrating than NIVs when you have to spend a lot of time trying to get the truth out of an applicant or find that someone’s permanently ineligible for something minor that happened a long time ago but they can also be a lot more rewarding when you adjudicate a visa that reunites someone with their family or allows a young child the opportunity to have a brighter future in the US than they likely would have in their home country.

So, that’s how I spend my days at work.

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Filed under Ciudad Juarez, Consular, Mexico

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