In my immigration practice my clients all prefer to complete their immigration process in the United States or at an overseas U.S. Consulate office in Canada or elsewhere. It seems that no one wants to travel to Kingston, Jamaica for their final interview. Based on my personal and professional experience with the U.S Embassy/Consulate in Jamaica I empathize whole-heartedly with my clients. Nonetheless, in certain cases the final interview to obtain a temporary visa or to immigrate to the Unites States must be conducted in Kingston, Jamaica. This month my article will briefly discuss some emerging issues at the U.S Embassy/Consulate in Kingston, Jamaica and some suggestions to overcome these issues.
The term “consular processing” refers to the process of obtaining an immigration visa/benefit through the U.S. Embassy or U.S. Consulate outside of the United States. As such, applicants are usually required to appear for their interview in their country of birth, except in special cases where there is not a U.S. Consulate in their country or they are eligible to attend their interview in a country other than their place of birth. In Kingston, Jamaica, attorneys and family members are usually not allowed to accompany the applicant inside the interviewing room. As such, this is where the problems begin. In my practice I have noticed and dealt with the following issues.
First, approximately 80% of my clients who attend their interview in Kingston, Jamaica complain that the Immigration officer was unpleasant and/or impatient with them. As an attorney this is most distressing as there is no way to immediately rectify this situation for my clients.
Second, a small percentage of my clients receive conflicting information from the interviewing officer. In a recent fiancé visa case my client was interviewed by one female officer who was unpleasant and when he attempted to answer her questions the officer passed his case to another officer. The second officer was pleasant but she then proceeded to inform my client that she could not approve his fiancé visa because he was outside of the processing time. The officer’s reasoning was baseless since the U.S. Consulate actually scheduled his appointment for the allotted time and therefore he had no control over the processing time. In addition, the fiancé visa is not subject to a numerical quota such as an H-1B visa. As such, the fiancé visa was available to my client and he was clearly eligible to receive the visa.
Third, there have been instances where my clients’ cases have been wrongfully denied. As such, clients are always bewildered by the fact that the U.S. Consulate can deny their case and then deny them the opportunity to appeal their case.
Unfortunately, some individuals will experience either one or all three situations on their cases. To combat these issues my firm has developed a successful process. First, it is impossible to ensure that all Immigration officers will demonstrate a pleasant and professional manner when working with members of the public. However, we can lessen the negative effects by documenting the offensive conduct and providing that information to U.S. Consulate. As such, I have always counseled my clients to politely ask for the officer’s name at the inset of the interview. My firm is also able to combat this issue by building relationships with local attorneys in Kingston, Jamaica who can visit the U.S. Consulate to gain more information about the client’s case. In addition, we take steps to maintain a good rapport with Immigration officers who we are familiar with to search for creative solutions to help our clients who have difficult cases. Finally, I have found that the best strategy to combat an adverse decision is to conduct a thorough document review, intense preparation for our clients, and constant communication with the U.S. Consulate’s office.
The U.S. Consulate’s office in Jamaica and elsewhere are very concerned about fraudulent applications. Unfortunately, each year it seems that fraudulent applications are on the rise. As such, the United States government has issued directives to the U.S. Consulates to be vigilant and thorough in its review of all applications-especially family-based permanent residence and fiancé visas. Due to the U.S. Consulate’s heightened sense of fraud sometimes a nervous applicant or a mere error on an application could be seen as grounds for a denial. This is extremely alarming because it now appears that a large number of applications are being denied for the wrong reasons.
If you are currently in consular processing or if you have received a denial, we would like the opportunity to discuss your case with you.
Disclaimer: This article is a broad overview of consular issues. This article is provided as a public service and it is not intended to establish an attorney client relationship. Any reliance on the information contained herein is taken at your own risk. The information provided in this article should never replace informed counsel when specific immigration-related guidance is needed.
About the Writer:
Safiya Byars ([email protected]) is the senior partner and owner in the Law Office of Safiya Byars (www.byarslawgroup.com). She is an active member of the Caribbean and International communities in Georgia. She graduated Summa Cum Laude from the University of Montevallo and received her law degree from the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Her office is located at 160 Clairemont Avenue, Ste. 200, Decatur, Georgia 30030. Attorney Byars handles all immigration matters, deportation defense, family law issues, and business formation/litigation. To discuss you case, contact Attorney Byars at 404-992-6506 or 678-954-5809.