Part 3: Hadi Deeb: Tsar-Consul of Uzbekistan – “You are not proficient in your 3rd and 4th languages? Sorry, you are denied.”

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The case of Mr. B is illustrative of the consular tyranny prevailing in Tashkent and how Mr. Deeb has apparently impacted Department of State decisionmakers in formulating visa policy.

Mr. B. has a high school diploma and thereby satisfies the Diversity Visa education requirements.[1] He is of Tajik background and grew up in Uzbekistan, where he learned the Uzbek language.  Yet, when he attended his interview at the US Embassy in Tashkent, the consul tested not his knowledge of the Uzbek or Tajik languages, but his English- and Russian-language capabilities in violation of the State Department’s Foreign Affairs Manual:

(b) A DV refusal must be based on evidence that the alien did not in fact obtain the required degree and not on your assessment of the alien’s knowledge level. You may not administer an exam, either oral or written, to test an applicant’s basic knowledge in order to determine whether they have the equivalent of a U.S. high school education. You may not refuse a DV applicant solely on the basis of your analysis of the applicant’s basic knowledge. Doubts about the applicant’s claimed educational level raised by your interview, however, may lead you to investigate the authenticity of the educational credentials claimed by the DV applicant.  9 FAM 502-6-3(c)(4).

While Mr. B. studied some English and Russian more than 10 years ago, he had forgotten most of it. When he could not comprehend the text of the Russian-language article he was given to translate, the consul denied him for not meeting the education requirements. It is important to note that there was no accusation of fraud – no allegation that Mr. B had “bought” a diploma or presented a fake educational document. If that had been the case, he would have been found inadmissible under Section 212(a)(6)(C)(i) of the Immigration and Nationality Act. But notwithstanding numerous follow-up requests to Mr. Deeb and the Visa Office, no explanation was ever provided as to how the education requirement was not met, in violation of 9 FAM 504.11-3(A)(1)(b)(2).

This story then took another turn – one for the worse.  Six months after the author raised this case with the State Department, the Visa Office rescinded this prohibition on consuls checking the knowledge of DV applicants. Prior to November 5, 2018, the remainder of the Education Evaluation rule as enunciated in the FAM read as follows:

(4) Education Evaluation:

(a) Each post needs to determine what course of study is equivalent to a high school education or its equivalent in the host country. Previously, posts were provided with a guidebook that provided information on high school equivalency country by country. That guidebook (“Foreign Education Credentials Required”) is no longer in print and is not available in updated format. You should not rely on it for your evaluation of high school credentials. You should make use of the resources found in your Public Diplomacy (PD) section to determine comparable courses of study in the host country that would meet the definition of a high school education or its equivalent. Contacts in the host country’s Ministry of Education may also be of help. If you have questions about certificates and diplomas, you should consult with your public diplomacy section, including Education USA advisors and locally engaged staff, as they are valuable resources in evaluating local education systems. PD personnel advise prospective students and evaluate their educational backgrounds and have experience with and knowledge of local schools. To determine the authenticity of any particular document, you will need to work with your Fraud Prevention staff to develop expertise in making that determination. Interviewing officers may wish to consult with other posts when in doubt about the authenticity of educational certificates from countries outside their consular district.

The new version of 9 FAM 502.6-3(C)(4) now reads:

(4)  (U) Education Evaluation:

(U) The burden of proving that an applicant’s education is equivalent to a high school degree is entirely on the applicant.  If the applicant does not satisfy you that the applicant’s education is equivalent to a high school degree but you believe additional evidence could meet the applicant’s burden, you should refuse the applicant under 221(g) and request the applicant to provide additional information.  If the applicant is unable to credibly prove the education equivalency requirement to your satisfaction, you should refuse the applicant 5A.

In short, the consular prohibition on testing the knowledge of applicants has been abolished.  Consuls are now given free rein to assess applicants’ basic knowledge and deny them if their “knowledge” is deemed inadequate. Consuls can now substitute their own assessment of an applicant’s knowledge in the place of the educational system of any DV-participating country. Think about that – the Department of State has decided that, in the course of a 5-10 minute interview, a consul can evaluate better than the educational establishment of a given country whether an applicant has the equivalent of a high school education.  And as can be seen in Mr. B’s case, this assessment can be in an applicant’s third and fourth languages!

In the next article the reader will learn how Mr. Deeb’s unilateral reinterpretation of Uzbek law and game of “hide the ball” has shattered the lives of unsuspecting visa applicants.

[1] 8 U.S.C. § 1153(c)(2).