Russian Visa Applicants Struck by 221(g) Epidemic

Via a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, I was able to obtain visa statistics (221gMoscowstats0001)  for the US Embassy in Moscow.  Russian visa applicants are no exception to the epidemic of 221(g) decisions around the world.  From 2007-2012, the number of Russian B visa applicants at the US Embassy in Moscow subject to 221(g) more than tripled.  Students and employees of US companies also had their applications increasingly scrutinized: the number of students and H applicants subject to delays more than doubled, and the number of L visa applicants encountering 221(g) increased more than eightfold!

The good news is that the overwhelming majority of Russian applicants subject to Section 221(g) receive their visas.  However, the spike in the number of 221(g) delays and bureaucratic hurdles encountered by Russian visa applicants contradicts the public Embassy pronouncements about facilitating travel to the US.   If you are the subject of a substantial 221(g) delay, please contact us.



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US Visa Revocation Campaign Intensifies

The phone calls keep coming in to our office. From Australia, South Africa, India, Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Russia, Lebanon, all from US visa holders who have had their visas revoked without explanation.   It appears that the US government has intensified its visa revocation campaign, particularly against Muslims.

The problems encountered by Muslims in dealing with US immigration authorities was the topic of a recently published ACLU  report about the discriminatory USCIS Controlled Application Review and Resolution Program (“CARRP”). The report highlights how USCIS misidentifies national security concerns; encourages FBI interference and harassment; mandates pretextual denials; and deprives due process of green-card holding applicants, primarily Muslim, during the naturalization process.  These thousands are left in legal limbo for years.

If there is one glimmer of hope, it is that these applicants at least are able to wage their battles while in the US, where lawyers, courts, and public opinion can at least attempt to reign in an out-of-control immigration and law enforcement bureaucracy.  What about the tens of thousands of visa applicants outside the US who are unable to receive new visas after their visas were revoked because, as many claim, they are “AWM” – Applying While Muslim?  Or worse, what about the 55,000 visa applicants from around the world of various ethnicities and religions who have had their visas revoked since 9/11 on grounds unrelated to security?

Many of these applicants who have had their visas revoked have opened and developed successful businesses in the United States; spent years and tens of thousands of dollars pursuing an academic degree; obtained medical treatment in the US; or have close family members in the US. But when they are back in their home countries, attempt to board a flight to the US, or attempt to enter the US at a port of entry, they are informed that their visas have been revoked – without disclosure of a reason.  As a result, they are cut off from their businesses; unable to finish their educations; severed from their medical treatment; or isolated from their families because the Department of State revoked their visas.  In contrast to individuals located in the US, where there are, at least in theory, mechanisms in place to check unbridled arbitrary action, individuals located outside the US, in general, do not have resort to an administrative appeals process or judicial redress.

Just how widespread are these cases?   During the summer, there were reports that the US Embassy in Lebanon revoked up to 3,000 visas of Lebanese citizens.  Consular officials routinely act on “poison pen” letters – from disgruntled ex-spouses, business partners, landlords, and employees – by revoking visas without checking the veracity of the claims contained therein. Visas are revoked not just for legal reasons (real or imagined):  as reported in the Economist, an internal Department of State cable published on Wikileaks shed light on how the DOS uses the prestige of a visa – and its threatened or actual revocation – as leverage to achieve political aims.

We recently wrote about the disconnect between the promises of Obama Administration officials in seeking to attract talented immigrants and the real world decisions adversely impacting US business.  The PR machine of the State Department continues to churn, boasting of its efforts to facilitate travel to the United States; yet it is unswervingly silent in addressing the cases of thousands of Muslims and others the world over who have had their visas revoked or denied for no reason whatsoever.

If you have had your visa revoked, please contact us.  Passively accepting a State Department decision to revoke a visa – and relinquishing your ability to ever visit, work in, or immigrate to the United States – is not an option.




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The 221(g) Epidemic and What You Can Do About It

The statistics are stunning.

Over the past four years, more than four million visa applications have been temporarily denied under Section 221(g) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, that is to say, the Department of State collected tens of millions of dollars from visa applicants, only to put their applications on hold.

Year 221(g) findings in Immigrant Visa Cases 221(g) findings in Nonimmigrant Visa Cases Total
2009 273,227 616,284 889,511
2010 286,889 694,620 981,509
2011 312,968 837,477 1,150,445
2012 303,166 806,773 1,109,939

More stunning is the wait time that thousands of visa applicants are subject to. The US Embassy in London publishes on its website a list of nonimmigrant visa cases subject to 221(g) administrative processing and the intake dates of the applications.  As of October 25, 2013, the list encompasses 141 pages and thousands of applicants.  6 individuals have been waiting for four years for action on their applications.  More than 100 individuals have been waiting more than three years. More than 100 individuals have been waiting more than two years. And while the list includes thousands of cases that have been closed or acted upon, the number of pending cases is astonishing.

The good news is that visa applicants subject to 221(g) do have recourse.  While visa applicants as a general rule are unable to find legal succor in US courts for visa denials, they do have the right to sue US embassies and consulates around the world, as well as the Department of State and Department of Homeland Security, in a US federal district court when no action is taken on a visa application. The US government does not have the right to interminably suspend action on a visa application; it must take a decision. While there is no hard-and-fast rule as to what qualifies as a reasonable timeframe in which the government must make a decision – individual circumstances are important – any B, F, J or immigrant visa applicant whose application has been pending for at least 18 months should consider filing a writ of mandamus lawsuit against the government.  (Because the validity of work visa petitions, such as H-1B and L-1 visas, is limited, a different calculus is appropriate in attacking 221g delays in this context.)

Just the threat of litigation alone may serve as a deterrent to the open-ended visa processing. And if not, then visa applicants should file such lawsuits so that the government will understand that it must act, that it cannot sit on applications, that it cannot engage in perpetual fishing expeditions.  The Departments of State and Homeland Security may not be accountable to visa applicants for delays and inaction, but they are to judges.


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Bait-and-Switch, Department-of-State-Style

The below article was recently published on the Immigrant Lawyer’s Weekly website –

Yesterday, we wrote about how USCIS holds out the lure of green cards to foreign entrepreneurs, only to pull back the bait once the businessman has committed untold hours and funds to the development of a business in the United States. The Department of State is no slacker in the bait-and-switch game. It has used the Diversity Green Card Lottery as a means to reap a windfall by holding out the lure of green cards to those selected in the Lottery, only to turn away thousands of applicants after they have paid substantial application fees. The US Embassy in Tashkent is an excellent case study.

After the DV Lottery drawing, the selected “winners” submit application forms to the Department of State’s Kentucky Consular Center (“KCC”). The KCC then invites selectees for immigrant visa interviews. At the interview each family member pays $330 in non-refundable fees. For a variety of reasons, the Embassy in Tashkent temporarily refuses 30-40% of all Uzbek DV applicants under Section 221(g) of the Immigration and Nationality Act. But rather than continuing to process many of these applications, it pushes these individuals to the back of an artificially-created queue, so that it can accept new visa fees from new applicants. This results in the Embassy receiving tens of thousands of dollars in visa fees from individuals who do not receive visas and re-allocating visas to other applicants who also pay visa fees. In short, the Embassy has consciously decided to “double dip”.

Part of the problem can be attributed to the rules of the Lottery. Only 50,000 Diversity visas may be issued in a fiscal year and no more than 7% of the visa recipients may be issued to nationals of a single country. However, the Department of State preliminary selects many more than 3,500 Uzbeks entrants and family members. In addition to the quota, there is a time limit, with applicants required to receive visas by September 30 of each year or the selection is nullified. As a result, there is a shortage of visas for Uzbek winners and time limitations.

Because demand greatly exceeds supply, the Embassy in Tashkent ends up earning money on and shattering the dreams of jilted Uzbek applicants. For example, rather than issue a visa to a qualified applicant, the Embassy will temporarily deny the visa, stating it needs to do a check on the applicant’s academic credentials. But rather than do the check in a timely fashion, it will set aside his application and re-allocate his visa to another individual. This contravenes the Department of State’s own regulations requiring a consular officer to finalize the processing of Lottery visas as fast as possible because of the time constraints. [1]

The Embassy’s inefficiency exacerbates the problem. Many posts have in place a dropbox system or courier service in which an applicant can submit a missing document to the consular officer. But Tashkent does not. Rather, it will only allow a person to submit additional documentation, including passports for visa issuance, in person. To do so, the Embassy must schedule an appointment. It does so on a limited basis, further squeezing the bottleneck of time and visas. So if an applicant was able to obtain a missing police certificate a day after his interview, he will be at the mercy of a scheduling officer allowing him to bring in that police certificate to enable processing to be finalized.

“I feel like I’m stuck in a lottery within a lottery,” one applicant who had paid more than $1500 in application fees told me who has been waiting for more than two months for the Embassy to verify the authenticity of his diploma. “Waiting. Wondering whether the US Government will select me again to bring in my passports, whether it is more interested in my money or issuing to me and my family a visa that I qualify for. It all seems like a game. We feel so close to immigrating, but at the same time, so far away.”

The theme of a “lottery within a lottery” is a persistent one when discussing the Embassy in Tashkent. For example, it has issued visas to dozens of applicants with trivial spelling errors or birthdate mistakes in their DV entries, but denied visas to others with similar errors or mistakes. Some speculate that the Embassy denied these applicants to punish them because they used the services of Lottery consultants and to serve as a deterrent to others thinking of using such services. After refusing to discuss the rationale with the author (“Post will not discuss the cases of applicants who have already been issued and whom you do not represent”), the Embassy provided this “explanation”: “The rules for applying for the Diversity Visa, while simple, are strict. In each case, the Consular officer determines the qualifications of the applicant by making an informed decision based upon the information contained in the electronic entry, the applicant’s DS-230 application, and information gained during the interview. An applicant who fails to follow the instructions may be disqualified.”

After months of correspondence and the intervention of the Visa Office, the Embassy has now reconsidered this position, agreeing to re-open such denials. But as one can guess, it has positioned those individuals to the back of the line it created, thus appearing to be “reasonable” and holding out the bait of the green card, knowing full well that the final switch will come on October 1 when there will be no immigrant visas available for these applicants.

And the beat goes on…


1See 9 FAM 42.33 N9.2, N10.2, PN6

Postscript – Certain individuals who were denied because of entry inaccuracies were eventually issued visas, on the final days of DV-2013.  However, many of those whose academic credentials were supposed to be verified had the clock run out on them.

Posted in Consular Officers, Department of State, DV-2013, Green Card Lottery, US Embassy Tashkent | Comments Off

Bait-and-Switch, USCIS-Style

The below article by White & Associates was recently published on the Immigrant Lawyer’s Weekly website -

Bait-and-Switch, USCIS – Style1


Kenneth White

Reader Quiz: What is the difference between these two regulations?

Executive capacity means an assignment within an organization in which the employee primarily: ( ) Directs the management of the organization or a major component or function of the organization; ( ) Establishes the goals and policies of the organization, component, or function; ( ) Exercises wide latitude in discretionary decision-making; and ( ) Receives only general supervision or direction from higher level executives, the board of directors, or stockholders of the organization.

Executive capacity means an assignment within an organization in which the employee primarily: (A) Directs the management of the organization or a major component or function of the organization; (B) Establishes the goals and policies of the organization, component, or function; (C) Exercises wide latitude in discretionary decision-making; and (D) Receives only general supervision or direction from higher level executives, the board of directors, or stockholders of the organization.

Answer: 2-3 Years and a Lifetime. You see, the former is the regulation which governs how USCIS decides whether or not to approve an executive’s L-1A status for three years or, in the case of an extension of a new office petition, prolong his L-1A status for two years. 8 C.F.R. § 214.2(l)(1)(ii)(C). The latter is the regulation which governs whether or not the executive will be granted permanent residency status pursuant to the EB-1-3 category. 8 C.F.R. § 204.5(j)(2). The statute defining executive capacity for the granting of L-1A status and EB-1-3 immigration, INA Section 101(a)(44)(B), is identical. Other than the numbers and letters, you don’t see a difference? Neither do I.

But USCIS does. For the former, USCIS is relatively flexible in authorizing three-year L-1A status or extending for two years the L-1A status of individuals acting in an executive capacity. For the latter, however, USCIS moves the goal posts – subjecting the company-petitioners and the individual beneficiaries filing for a green card to heightened scrutiny and grafting additional unwritten requirements on to be considered an executive. This is not an anomaly. In fact, USCIS recognizes that “many” I-140 immigrant petitions are denied after L-1 approvals.2

How does USCIS justify this disparate treatment? Simple. It states that examiners spend more time on immigrant petitions and so are able to delve into more detail than examiners on L-1 petitions.3 It says that the stakes are higher for immigrant petitions and that heightened scrutiny is justified;4 it treats the green card as a Holy Grail, reserved for the truly worthy who will have the ability to naturalize. Each petition is a “separate record of proceeding with a separate burden of proof” and “must stand on its own merits.”5 Finally, USCIS asserts that it is not bound by “errors” made by L-1A examiners, that it would be “absurd to suggest that USCIS or any agency must treat acknowledged errors as binding precedent.”6

To illustrate, take the case of Andrey, the head of a successful travel agency. After operating his own tour enterprise and travel agency in Russia for more than a decade, he set out to establish a similar business in the US. His US company filed a new office L-1A petition on his behalf so that he could work as the CEO. The petition was approved, and he received a one-year L-1 visa. Over the course of the year, he developed his business in the United States, managing to reach sales of $1 million, turning a profit, and hiring 5 Americans.

His company then filed an L-1A extension petition. USCIS approved that petition, i.e., it deemed Andrey to be working as an executive and that he would continue to act in an executive capacity. A month later, the company filed an almost identical package of documents in support of its petition for Andrey’s green card. This time, USCIS resisted, first sending out a burdensome Request for Evidence questioning whether Alex was indeed working as an executive. After submitting a voluminous response addressing each of the points raised, USCIS denied the petition, stating that he is not working as an executive and will not be working as an executive. Implicit in the decision – heading up a 6-person company does not suffice to qualify as an executive.

Andrey’s company filed an appeal. But rather than finding legal succor, it found an echo chamber: the Administrative Appeals Office repeated the assertions of the Service Center, namely, that it is not bound by the “mistake” of an L-1 examiner. Later that year, not surprisingly, his company’s L-1A extension petition on his behalf was approved again for another two years.

This beat has been going on for years. In 2012 alone, the author found numerous AAO decisions in which the beneficiary was in the US in L-1A status, only to have his or her I-140 green card petition denied on executive or managerial capacity grounds. Even before reaching the AAO, the USCIS has planted the poison seed for inconsistent decisions by mandating that companies file L-1 and immigrant petitions at different Service Centers with different examiners: L-1s at the California and Vermont Service Centers, immigrant petitions with the Texas and Nebraska Service Centers.

Contrast the above with the public pronouncements made by USCIS: how it welcomes entrepreneurs to the US, how it established an entrepreneur-in-residence program, that small business makes up the backbone of American economy. .. Just recently, in the EB-5 context, USCIS espoused the importance of deference to previous agency determinations. Such a policy of deference to previous decisions “ensures predictability” for business, “and also conserves scarce agency resources, which should not ordinarily be used to duplicate previous adjudicative efforts.”7

Where does the truth lie – in the press releases and announcements of USCIS, or in the real world Service Center and AAO denial decisions which adversely impact talented entrepreneurs, their companies, employees, and customers?

The irony is that many of these entrepreneurs came to America in search of predictability, rule of law, and stability, attributes often absent in the business landscapes of their own countries. Yet after investing hundreds of thousands of dollars, hiring American workers, providing needed services and innovation, and toiling to grow their businesses, they encounter the whims and uncertainty of an immigration bureaucracy hellbent on interpreting a single statute and identical regulations in different ways. The image of Lucy pulling the football from a foolhardy Charlie Brown trying to kick it comes to mind, with USCIS encouraging businessmen to invest and luring them with the prospect of a green card, only to snatch it away from them at the last minute. When will USCIS action match its words? When will it cease the intellectual dishonesty underpinning the adverse decisions in EB-1-3 petitions?

[1] This article is the first in a two-part series on how immigration agencies play a game of bait-and-switch with potential immigrants. Tomorrow we will publish an article entitled “Bait-and-Switch, Department of State-Style”

[2] August 15, 2012 Decision of AAO, p. 6 -…12_02B4203.pdf

[3] “Because USCIS spends less time reviewing I-129 nonimmigrant petitions than I-140 immigrant petitions, some nonimmigrant L-1A petitions are simply approved in error.” Id. at p.7.

[4] E.g., “Examining the consequences of an approved petition, there is a significant difference between a nonimmigrant L-1A visa classification, which allows an alien to enter the United States temporarily, and an immigrant E-13 visa petition, which permits an alien to apply for permanent residence in the United States and, if granted, ultimately apply for naturalization as a United States citizen.” Id.

[5] February 9, 2012 Decision of AAO, p. 5 -…12_03B4203.pdf

[6] Id. pp. 5-6

[7] May 30, 2013 Memorandum on EB-5 Adjudications Policy, p. 23



Posted in Administrative Appeals Office USCIS, Business Immigration, DV-2015, USCIS | Comments Off

Summer Work and Travel Program Scandal at Embassy in Moscow – Memo of White & Associates to Office of Inspector General

Attached are our memorandum and exhibits addressed to the Office of Inspector General at the Department of State regarding the Summer Work and Travel Program scandal at the US Embassy in Moscow:  Memo - swtletter0001; Exhibits - swtexhibits0001

Posted in 214(b), Consular Officers, Department of State, Office of Inspector General Department of State, Summer Work and Travel, US Embassy Moscow | Comments Off

Summer Work and Travel Scandal at US Embassy in Moscow


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7 Interviews = 1 Visa. How the US Embassy in Moscow Torments Russian Visa Applicants

We recently published this article on Immigration Lawyers Weekly – -


The recent headline in one of Russia’s leading daily newspapers sounded so welcoming: “America Invites You to Visit.” In the extensive accompanying article and interview, the Chief of the Nonimmigrant Visa Unit at the US Embassy in Moscow, Bill Bistransky, praises the natural wonders of the United States and touts the ease of receiving a visa to the United States for “legitimate” visitors.[1]

If only it were so.

We have previously chronicled how the Embassy in Moscow regularly punishes Russian babushki who stay “too long” in the US;[2] impermissibly readjudicates already-approved USCIS employment petitions, stymying the plans of Russian entrepreneurs and professionals to work in the United States;[3] and doubled its visa refusal rate.[4] But what is remarkable is the continued disconnect between the Embassy’s public relations campaign and the real world experiences of everyday visa applicants. Take the case of Irina.

Irina is a top-flight 18-year old basketball player who lives in Moscow. She had a full scholarship to play for a small Midwestern college. She had a good TOEFL score and is a B student. She had traveled around Europe playing with her basketball team and lived with her mother, who has a good job and owns an expensive apartment in Moscow.

In the summer, Irina applied for a student visa at the Embassy in Moscow. According to Irina, the consular officer seemed annoyed and skeptical as soon as she stepped to the window. The officer asked the standard array of questions for student visa applicants, only in a very sharp tone: Where will you study? What is your major? Why do you want to study in the US? What kind of stipend will you receive? After the brief interview, he denied her under Section 214(b) of the Immigration and Nationality Act.[5]

Irina applied again. At her second interview she was greeted by a friendlier officer, who engaged in a similar line of questioning. According to Irina, he appeared to be ready to approve her visa. But before making a final decision, he approached the initial adjudicating officer, who was interviewing applicants at the next window. After a brief discussion, the officer returned to Irina and said that he is unable to reverse the decision of the first officer.

Irina missed the fall semester.

However, Irina – and her college – did not give up. The college President and basketball coach wrote letters of support. Irina applied a third time and was met by a different officer. She showed her letters of support and personal documents to the officer. This officer asked how she found the college, and before refusing her, said: “It is very difficult to receive a visa to the United States.”

During a trip with her team to Yekaterinburg, she decided to apply at the consulate there. The officer there asked a couple of questions, and according to Irina, did not even deign to listen to her responses. He refused her within 2 minutes.

Irina then contacted our firm. We requested the Embassy in Moscow to provide the factual basis of the refusal. The Embassy stonewalled. We then contacted the Department of State in Washington, seeking its assistance in eliciting information about Irina’s case. In the meanwhile, as the winter semester approached, we advised Irina to apply for a visa again. On December 14, she attended an interview and after a 5 minute conversation with the officer (in English), her application was approved. Irina – and the college – were ecstatic. It would be a Happy New Year after all!

But it was not to be. Several days later, Irina received an e-mail from the Embassy. She was being called in again – for another interview. A consular manager did not agree with the decision to issue the visa, and decided to require her to undergo another interview.

Because of the American and Russian holidays, the earliest interview available was January 10, with her semester scheduled to start the following week. On that day, Irina attended her interview. She was met by yet another officer. After a 5 minute discussion in English, according to Irina, the officer proclaimed that she used to teach English, and that Irina’s English was “inadequate”. Therefore, the officer was refusing Irina.

We immediately contacted the Embassy and the State Department, pointing out the prohibition on consular officers “testing” the English language capabilities of applicants who have satisfactorily passed a standardized English exam such as the TOEFL unless there is a suspicion of fraud.[6]

Several days later, the Embassy called Irina, and invited her for another interview. Irina arrived at the Embassy, and after a 30 minute conversation in English with another officer, her visa was finally approved. The next day, her visa was issued.

After 7 interviews, $1000 in application fees, 6 months, two different consulates, countless correspondence, and an emotional rollercoaster for Irina and her mother, Irina had received her visa. The above speaks volumes to the virtue of persistence. But what does it say about the US Embassy in Moscow and its public declarations about how it welcomes Russians to travel to the United States?

[1] “Amerika priglashaet v gosti,” Moskovskiy Komsomolets, December 24, 2012,

[5] Sections 214(b) and 101(a)(15)(F) of the Immigration and Nationality Act presume that applicants for student visas are intending immigrants unless they establish to the satisfaction of the consular officer that he or she has a residence in a foreign country and does not intend to abandon it; is entering the US temporarily; is a bona fide student qualified to pursue a full course of study; and will be pursuing such a course of study at an authorized institution.

[6] “If a school has admitted an applicant of the basis of the applicant’s TOEFL or other English language test scores, the officer should not reevaluate the school’s decision, even if the applicant seems to know less English than the TOEFL score indicates unless the officer suspects the applicant obtained the results through fraud. Many students do well on the TOEFL, but seem to forget their English when confronted with a face-to-face interview with a consular officer.” 9 FAM 41.61 N5.1(1)

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Department of State Publishes 2012 Visa Refusal Statistics

The Department of State has just published its annual B visa denial statistics. This year,the big news is the marked decline in the rate of denial for Chinese visitor visa (B) applicants – from 12% in 2011 to 8.5% in 2012.  This is good news for the Chinese – and the American economy.

Other high-volume countries whose citizens were also the beneficiaries of a steep decrease were India and the Philippines, where refusal rates declined from 30.1% to 24.1% and 33.8% to 23.8%, respectively.   Given the usual grouping of the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, and China) countries as rapidly developing economic powers, one may be surprised to learn that US consular officers in Brazil deny Brazilian applicants only 3.2% of the time – a rate nearly 8 times less than India and 3 times less than China and Russia.  Just last year, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Napolitano announced that Brazilians are on track to qualify for the Visa Waiver Program soon, enabling them to bypass the B visa application process altogether.

Unfortunately for nationals of the other BRIC countries, visa-free travel to the United States in the foreseeable future is not a realistic prospect.

Posted in Department of State, Visa Refusal Rates | Leave a comment

A Tale of 3 Consular Posts – The Good, The Bad and The Ugly: Tashkent, Moscow, and Jakarta

Rarely have I had the opportunity to see three consular posts so clearly juxtaposed as I have over the past two weeks in dealing with Tashkent, Moscow, and Jakarta.  The experience only reinforces the notion that it is the decisionmakers and consular managers who drive visa policy, not the other way around.

Tashkent has come a long way since we filed a Complaint with the Department of State Office of Inspector General in 2008.  Tashkent is a post with numerous challenges, including fraud, Lottery intermediaries extorting money from Lottery winners, visa overstays, and operating in a relatively poor country.  David Mico, the Consul from 2010 to 2012, was a very good manager who kept an open mind in reviewing visa applications and decisions. He was not afraid to correct a mistake made by a consular officer. His replacement, Otto Westhassel, has followed this tradition by re-opening visa decisions when convincing new evidence is presented reflecting an error in a visa decision (e.g., a sham marriage finding, education qualifications).  The DV-2012 program wound down the last week of September, and Mr. Westhassel and his staff worked tirelessly in reviewing as many applications as possible and giving a fair shake to any selectee who had an application under consideration.

This stands in stark contrast with Moscow, which continues to sit on USCIS-approved H, L, O, and EB-5 petitions; impermissibly readjudicate those approvals, sending them back to USCIS for revocation; and refuses to re-open visa applications when convincing evidence is presented to reflect consular errors.  Doron Bard, the Consul General, and Bill Bistransky, the NIV Chief, run an insular operation, where consular ”infallibility” reigns and third parties are deemed to be unnecessary interlopers.

Just this past week another successful Russian businessman L-1 applicant had his petition returned to USCIS for revocation after more than three months of review. A different Russian visa applicant found herself in the middle of a consular shell game.  This student visa applicant, who had already completed three years of US university and was on track to graduate, returned to Russia during the summer of 2011.  After that, over the course of 12 months, she was denied three times.  While the consular officers would not tell her explicitly, she was able to deduce that she was being accused of illegally working in a NY nightclub; this despite the fact that she had spent a grand total of nine hours in NY (on a flight layover). When she attempted to present information and documents confirming her story, the consular officers refused to accept any evidence.  (Prologue: To Mr. Bard’s credit, the consular section finally agreed to accept evidence from her, after we had written to Mr. Bard on her behalf this week.) This comes on top of a recent case where Moscow, over the course of more than a half year, actively concealed from an applicant erroneous information in its database about a SEVIS violation.  This is how Moscow shows “respect” for applicants and treats them with “dignity”, as required by the Department’s Customer Service Statement.

Moscow is bad; Jakarta is ugly.  We recently represented an Indonesian visa applicant whose daughter is a US citizen.  Her daughter is married to a US service member, who is being deployed on a carrier in January.  The couple has two American citizen children, and sought to have her mother visit her daughter and grandchildren while he was being deployed.  She had no interest in immigrating to the US; because her daughter is a US citizen she could do so quickly and easily. But because she has five other children in Indonesia and several grandchildren there, and lives comfortably, she only wanted to visit for six months and return to Indonesia.  But she was denied under Section 214(b), and told flatly to apply to immigrate.  In other words, she was told that she must immigrate if she wants to see her daughter and grandchildren in the US.  In a follow-up conversation, the Consul General, Thurmond Borden, advised me that one of the reasons for the denial was because her daughter had remained in the US to marry a US citizen after receiving a B visa. The implication was clear: we are punishing this visa applicant – and keeping her away from her daughter and her grandchildren – because of her daughter’s “transgression”.

The above is just a microcosm of what visa applicants are dealing with all around the world on an everyday basis – the good, the bad, and the ugly.  Unfortunately, there is still way too much “bad and ugly” in the way that consular officers treat visa applicants.

Please share your visa experiences with us by writing to



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