The Role of Culture in Visa Denials.

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I recently wrote a blog regarding the OPT scandal advising the victims that “surrender is not an option”, that they needed to be proactive in seeking to resolve the potential drastic consequences.  That thought came to mind again when a gentleman contacted me a few weeks ago about his wife’s visa problem.  She had been denied an immigrant visa and permanently barred from the United States under Section 212(a)(6)(C)(i) of the Immigration and Nationality Act. The stakes for him could not be much higher: his wife may never be able to join him in the US unless an immigrant waiver would be approved.  Yet in talking to him and reviewing the case documents, it was not clear why she had been accused of making a willful, material misrepresentation.    I told him that the consular officer should be contacted and asked to provide a clarification about why this draconian decision had been made. To me, this was simple. Yet, his response was stunning: “I don’t want to do that because I don’t want to make them mad at me.”  His wife may never be able to join him in the US and he was worried about angering a consular official!

This mindset is actually not uncommon.  The idea that a consular officer would be offended and somehow retaliate for what is in essence doing his job is much more widespread than one would think. There is obviously a cultural element: do not question or challenge authority; defer to an official’s decisions; do not take any action which may prompt a punitive response.  Asking for a clarification would be viewed as being “aggressive”, so “best” to take the opposite tack – one of passivity.  There is a (unrealistic) hope that if one waits long enough, the consul will just change his mind. Or the denied applicant looks for some “informal” channel – a friend of a friend who “knows” someone at the embassy – to try to get the decision changed.  Or to contact a visa “consultant” who promises to “fix” the problem – for $10,000 up front.

In handling such cases for more than 25 years, I can say with certainty that these informal channels never work and that the “fixers” are in fact scammers.  I know that if the applicant does not exercise his legal rights to seek clarifications or request reconsideration of erroneous decisions, nothing will change.  I have had potential clients consult with me, ignore my advice, take no action for 5 years, and then contact me again 5 years later to see if anything could be done.  Where have you been for 5 years?  It is always easier to challenge a visa decision when it has just been made.

You are dealing with the American bureaucracy, so it is necessary to adopt the American mindset: you have legal rights; you have paid government processing fees; you are entitled to assert those rights; and the US Government must address your assertion of those rights – reasonably and with a view towards making an accurate decision. Doing nothing, in the words of the Talking Heads, is a “Road to Nowhere”. To avoid going to this Visa Nowhere Land, you need to assert your rights.  It is as simple as that.

Feel free to contact us to discuss your visa problem.