About the Author: Josh Glazeroff is the Visa Chief in the Consular Section at the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi.
Flying into New Delhi for my job as Visa Chief in the Consular Section I knew I faced a lot of challenges. It's been seven years since I've done this kind of work overseas, and there have been lots of changes. One thing, however, hasn't changed: the desire for people to come to see the United States, as tourists, as students, for business, or to visit with relatives. People will come whatever time we tell them and will bring whatever documents we require to get their visas. Unfortunately, that can mean that they get taken advantage of by individuals selling packages of fraudulent papers, get left outside in the rain for hours, and sometimes form long, twisting lines on streets in front of consular sections around the world. I hoped that wasn’t the case for us in India's capital, so, my first day of work I decided to see the place as a visa applicant sees it…and I woke up early to get a good view.
I arrived outside the Consular Section around 6:45 a.m. to see what was happening. I walked up to the front gate, and the guards told me, "No, you’ll have to wait until 7:15."
I thought, Hmmm…good control of the lines, everyone has to wait across the street…I guess I’ll take a little walk. I can handle it, even if it is raining a little bit.
I went by the French Embassy, the Burmese Embassy, the Russian Embassy. There was a street dog looking a bit angry. Maybe I’ll cross the street. I went toward the Swedish Embassy -- furious barking!!! Okay, okay, I’ll go to the Finns instead!
A bit more strolling and I made my way back around toward the Consular Section. I was approached by two street kids, one singing a song and playing the drum, the other with a mustache drawn on his face, a beanie on his head -- with no spare change on me, and no real desire to encourage the kids, I moved on. There was a guy selling tea and what looked like eggs from a street cart. I quickly remembered: no street food!
Ah, hah, I found what I had been looking for -- a shady-looking guy came up to me and offered an ad offering airline tickets to the United States, Canada, and Europe. Somewhat disappointed not to have been offered a nice package of fake documents (must have been the dress pants), I approached the guards again and showed my passport.
"Can I get some information?"
The response: "The service for American Citizens only opens at 9 a.m."Darn it, these guys are too good at managing the crowds…wait, wait, here they come! With 7:30 a.m. appointments, the first group of visa applicants streamed across the street. It looked like the security force had them well-managed, forming an orderly line, and checking their appointment letters one-by-one, before allowing them to come into the building to deposit their documents. I didn't see anything to criticize with their efforts, and the fact that the Delhi police were out in force as back-up was reassuring as well.
Giving up on remaining incognito, I went inside and started introducing myself to the Indian Foreign Service Nationals who comprise our team. It was time to get to work and start thinking about my role in helping all of those people traveling to the United States.