A letter of complaint about the U.S. Consulate Services in Kiev
My name is Jacob Nelson. My wife is a Ukrainian citizen born and raised in Odessa. I am a U.S. Citizen. We live in Odessa as Christian missionaries to Ukraine’s people. Last week my wife applied for a B-2 non-immigrant visa so she could travel to the U.S. with me and meet my family for the first time and speak to our friends about how they can be involved in helping us and helping this country. We love what we do and we like our lives in Odessa. We have no desire or plan to live in another country, especially and including the U.S.
My wife was denied the Visa but in a pretty unprofessional and rude way. Perhaps she does not have the rights of a U.S. Citizen, but your consulate representative did not conduct a fair, just, or objective interview with her this week when she applied for her visa. Her first interview was Tuesday the 10th of January, 2012. The gentleman she spoke to was pretty kind. However he did not believe what she said. She did not realize this until after the interview was over. She thought he was going to issue her the visa, but realized after the interview, he had asked her a few times why would I, her husband, quit fishing in Alaska and become a missionary. I believe the issue at stake is not why I did it, but if I did, and in fact I have. Perhaps it is hard for him to understand, but she told the truth of our lives and this is all she can do. Honesty is an important part of our lives plus, we have read regarding visa interviews,
“Honesty is the best policy Honest and clear responses are the one that would help you secure VISA. If you lie or make up things, there are high chances, that you would be denied VISA. These are some items that can save you last minute troubles. One thing to remember that U.S. Government have open doors policy and depend a lot on travelers’ clear and objective statements of purpose of travel. And honesty would your best friend in this.”
She explained to him that becoming missionaries to Ukraine is what we have decided to do with our lives and that we recently completed a missionary training school in Odessa. If she was telling the truth and their job is to evaluate people’s honesty, what does this say for them when an officer assesses this wrong? Are they trained in this skill or is it left to the individuals’ personality, bias, or opinion alone? Does it matter to anyone if they get it right, or if they even try at all to get it right? I also understand that the officers are only human and cannot always accurately determine this correctly, the question in the air is, do they care about doing it correctly? because I and many others do not have the impression they do. We also understand that it is assumed she is an intending immigrant. She brought many documents to adhere by these suggestions:
“Applicants are welcome to present whatever information they feel demonstrates that they have strong economic, family or professional ties in their country of residence. The consular officer will request to view such documents at his or her discretion. Since each applicant’s situation is different, there is no “set” of documents that you can present that will guarantee visa issuance.”
The documents she had on hand were non-refundable round-trip plane tickets for my wife and I worth approx. $2,600, a statement from her university that she is enrolled as a student there (as she is a fourth year student with one year to go), marriage certificate in Odessa, bank statements showing our cash for the trip, a letter of invitation and statement of affiliation with the missions agency we are with, proof of her partial ownership of a flat in Odessa, itinerary plans in the States, a copy of my missionary visa to Ukraine, and some miscellaneous items about our missions work and plans in Odessa.
Yes she was a bit nervous at the interview; of course a lot is on the line regarding the outcome. So, when it was over she left pretty discouraged. She was discouraged not only because the answer was a harsh no, but because of how condescending it is to be called a liar and treated with such disregard. When we read in the papers she was given for the denial or when we read about the interview process on-line, it sounds very courteous, professional and concerned about the people applying, however in person her experience, and that of others there, was and is very often contrary to this. What can you do when an officer has said no because you were not convincing enough in their opinion and you were telling the truth? She thought perhaps she was not clear enough in some detail. The main thing is she was told at the Embassy not to give him any documents unless the officer asks her for them. This would leave you the impression that they are experts. How can their expertise be assessed if their decisions are completely arbitrary with indifference to probing the details of an individuals’ situation? This is also a little intimidating to find the amount of work you must go through to gather all the documents only to have them brushed aside without even as much as a peak. One would think they could at least patronize the papers, at minimum, for the outrageous interview fee we are paying them. Afterwards I had the impression that the Embassy is more concerned about getting through as many people as they can, as fast as they can, without actually taking the time, as they claim to:
“…the consular officer looks at the applicant’s overall situation to determine whether he or she has overcome the legal presumption that he or she intends to immigrate.”
But what if they do not even look it over? What if they are completely indifferent and lazy? Should there not be some standard of protocols by which the officer is subject to? They have all this power and no supervision. Just because they are free by law to do as they please, or because there is no one watching them, does not make it right and does not mean that the law should be this way. Should not the officer be accountable for the tactics they employ in making quality decisions regarding the applicant, or is it left completely up to their inadequate ability to determine facts in a very limited amount of time? There should be some set criteria established and supervision done over these decisions, because these simple poorly trained people are abusing their power. As United States representatives they should be conducting this foreign work with integrity. As a U.S. Citizen I am utterly ashamed. They automatically assume you are an intending immigrant until you prove otherwise, which means you are guilty until proven innocent. This sounds closely akin to Stalin’s method of court justice and torture, where they got people to confess they were anti-Soviet spies when they weren’t. On sight the consulate officer considers the applicant a liar. If they try to speak or offer documents they can be interrupted or intentionally ignored, even if the officer can tell there may be lots of truth to the matter.
I realize there are dangerous things happening in the world with people leaving the country illegally. I know that men are taking advantage of unsuspecting women and vice versa. It would be a virtue to prevent these people from crossing the border. There are also many other people attempting to migrate to the U.S. illegally, and the United States doesn’t owe anyone a visit to the U.S., and I agree that it seems justified to assume the interviewee is an intending immigrant, but what if you are not? Is there any room for a benefit of the doubt? My wife is not an intending immigrant, and if he didn’t believe her, how come he didn’t ask to see any documents? Is it in the power and discretion of the officer to wield this kind of power in someone’s life, when they were paid a decent amount of money by me, for a small amount of time, to try and assess the situation clearly? Are they concerned with doing their job well as representing the U.S government, or is it permissible to the federal government for the consulate to treat people lower because they are from another country? Are they to ask a few questions however related to the discovery of the truth or unrelated, make a decision based on a hunch, then hurry on to the next customer?
Since my wife and I knew that we are telling the truth, we decided to try one more time. We gathered a few more documents, my Bible College degree and our missionary training certificates to show our past plans for ministry work, hopefully to add legitimacy to our claim to be missionaries. We also gathered an invitation letter from my father, with a copy of his birth certificate, stating that he would take personal responsibility to ensure her return home and also we had a letter from our pastor in Odessa with an official stamp, stating that we were committed to an internship at our church in Odessa, July through December of 2012. Our second interview was three days later, Friday, January 13th.
We spent a lot of time and care on preparing all these documents to never have them examined at either of the interviews. The second consular officer was extremely harsh, rude, and inconsiderate to her.
Hopefully you are able to see which officer helped her on that day in your computer system, because she was too distracted by the officers treatment of her to remember to get her name. First thing she asked her was, what’s changed since she came on Tuesday, after saying very rudely, “you were just here”. She explained she had new documents she didn’t have before. The officer interrupted her before she could explain anything, which she would do a few different times for the length of time she was there at her window, which couldn’t have been more than one minute. She interrupted her saying, “–it’s nothing’s changed!” and went on to her next “question”.
According to this:
“IS A DENIAL UNDER SECTION 214(B) PERMANENT?
No. The consular officer will reconsider a case if an applicant can show further convincing evidence of ties outside the United States.”
6. How can a Ukrainian citizen reapply for a visa once they have been denied?
A. Most visa applicants are found ineligible for U.S. visas under Section 214(b) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), which is not a permanent ineligibility. If, in a subsequent application, an applicant is able to convince the consular officer that he or she has no intention of abandoning his or her residence overseas, due to new evidence of strong ties not presented during his or her original application, or because his or her social, familial, or economic situation has changed in a way which strengthens his or her ties to his or her home country, he or she may be issued a visa.”
So, something did change. As it says, “due to new evidence of strong ties not presented during his or her original application”, she did have a new letter of invitation from her father-in-law, which she clearly explained to her, which the officer promptly and completely ignored. We also had a letter stating our internship intentions in Odessa.
She understood fairly quickly this woman was not interested in her or in really finding out what our situation is. My wife showed her the receipt for our plane tickets in the window. Completing the one minute interview the officer asked, “what are you doing…” Valeriia barely got out a few words, “we are missionaries—“ when she saw her hit the button, which said, “NEXT”, before she could even finish her sentence. She was trying to show her the letter from our pastor in Odessa when she just handed her the rejection form. My wife asked her if she could show her our other documents. She said, “no, it could be falsified!” My wife asked her to take it and check it and she can find out that it is not falsified, which in fact they aren’t. She simply said sharply, widening her eyes in a very unfriendly way, “no, I don’t want to! Leave!”
What right does she have to treat someone like this? Do the consulate officers really have this much power that they can deliberately neglect to do their job with tact and understanding for the applicants situation, not to mention their feelings, that they can do whatever they want and be accountable to no other authority? If these people are making such important decisions in the lives of other people, shouldn’t they have exceptional people skills, and be at least half way interested in the person’s documents? Should these people have this much power without being under some kind of regulations?
“Every alien shall be presumed to be an immigrant until he establishes to the satisfaction of the consular officer, at the time of application for admission, that he is entitled to a nonimmigrant status…
Applicants prove the existence of such residence by demonstrating that they have ties abroad that would compel them to leave the U.S. at the end of the temporary stay. The law places this burden of proof on the applicant.
Our consular officers have a difficult job. They must decide in a very short time if someone is qualified to receive a temporary visa. Most cases are decided after a brief interview and review of whatever evidence of ties an applicant presents.
Strong ties differ from country to country, city to city, individual to individual. Some examples of ties can be a job, a house, a family, a bank account. “Ties” are the various aspects of your life that bind you to your country of residence: your possessions, employment, social and family relationships.”
She offered Valeriia no opportunity to prove these ties. We have ties in Ukraine through our church, ministry, partial flat ownership, University, her family, my missionary visa, and our missionary agency. Every time she spoke the officer interrupted her. When she showed her the documents in the window she just waved them off. Is there any way to address these types of issues in a way so that other people in the future can be treated with dignity and have paid the visa interview fee, for something more than condescending, accusatory, harassment? I am sure the U.S. government or the officers’ superiors are as concerned about the quality of the consulate services as I and many others are.
Thank you to all recipients of this letter in its circulation for your concern and your help. Is there anything else I can or should do to encourage reform in the unethical and biased system of some consulate offices?
If anyone feels they were mistreated by a U.S. Consulate officer they can write the Consulate General in their country, or write Washington D.C. to either of these addresses:
Office of International Operations
20 Massachusetts Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20529
Director, Office of Internal Audit
425 I Street, NW
Washington, DC 20536
Office of Inspector General (OIG), U.S. Department of State
Complaints can be made via telephone call, e-mail or standard mail regarding visa and passport malfeasance, employee misconduct, misuse of public position and related misconduct. Confidentiality over the Internet cannot be assured. Helpful information would be: What is the problem? Who is involved? When, where and why did it happen? Is there any documentation? Passport and visa issuance problems report first to Telephone Number: 202-663-1225.
Office of Inspector General (HOTLINE)
U.S. Department of State
P.O. Box 9778
Arlington, VA 22219 USA
Office of Inspector General
U.S. Department of State
Washington, DC 20520-6817 USA
Tel: 202-647-9450 Fax: 202-647-7660
Cables should be captioned: “OIG Channel-State” to ensure confidentiality
You can also send your letter to:
5850 Kyiv Place
Department of State
Washington, D.C. 20521-5850
U.S. Embassy to Ukraine
vul. Mykoly Pymonenka 6
Kyiv 01901 Ukraine
In addition, you may also file a report or complaint by calling the OIG Hotline directly at 1.800.409.9926 or 1.202.647.3320.
You can also contact the U.S. Congressman in the State you intend to visit: