Visa Investigation Reveals Kindness of Strangers

Posted by Josh Glazeroff
November 13, 2008
Punjab Road in Fog

About the Author: Josh Glazeroff serves as the Visa Chief in the Consular Section at the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi.

In the consular business, the desire of a visa applicant to go to the United States can outweigh a lot of other things, including the truth. In some cases, those who seek our services go to great lengths to tell us anything about themselves. Unfortunately, in their true circumstances, they simply don’t qualify for a visa. As those who commit fraud try all sorts of gambits, we must do our best to find out what’s true and what’s not in order to uphold the law. Fraud investigation is not always the most glamorous part of the job of a consular officer, but it can be the most interesting, because when there is no other way to find out someone’s true situation, we take a trip out to visit them where they live.

A couple months back, in an effort to handle a number of unclear cases, we drove out into the agricultural areas of India’s Punjab province to the “villages.” These villages were actually not what I imagined at all – there were two-story houses, paved roads, and beautiful gurudwaras (Sikh temples). Our goal was to see the visa applicants in their own environment and, where possible, confront them directly to find out whether they were married, who their family members were, or whether they really did the job they claimed to do. Our very first stop was quite successful. We talked to some neighbors who confirmed definitively that the applicant we were investigating was married (although he claimed not to be), and, in fact, was home with his wife at that very moment. We drove over to the house, and the gentleman confessed within about 30 seconds – the element of surprise had really worked in our favor. He never thought we’d show up at his door. He then – to our surprise – offered to have his wife make us some tea!

This went on for the couple of days we were on the road. We would head into a village, ask some questions, visit the applicant, and ask some more questions. The Indians we met were infallibly polite and incredibly open to seeing us. In the most amazing visit, we found someone’s alleged “son” living in his real house with his real parents and were able to close a difficult case. When we left the house, we ran out through pouring rain, got into the car, made a right turn and … got stuck in the mud. So, picture it, absolutely no clean getaway on this one. We actually had to go back into the house and ask for assistance to get the car out of the mud. It’s pouring rain; we’ve accused these people of lying, attempted to drive off…and ended up needing their help.

No matter how intrusive the questions we asked those we met, they still offered us tea and a seat. It’s hard to imagine the equivalent in the U.S.: drive into town as a stranger, start asking questions from neighbors, then go right up to someone’s house and try to catch them in a lie – who would talk to us, let alone offer us a cold drink? It’s clear that as much as the visa weighs heavily in the consular world, Punjabi hospitality is an even greater force.



November 13, 2008

Sophie in China writes:

What a fascinating story. I imagine that must have been and awkward experience but it is so wonderful that the family responded so hospitably.

I had no idea that physically checking out visa applications claims was part of the responsibility of a Consular Officer. How often does this happen as part of the job? Does it vary from country to country?

Massachusetts, USA
November 13, 2008

Shawnna in Massachusetts writes:

What a beautiful story, thank you for sharing it.

November 14, 2008

John in Greece writes:

You guys have a great, sophisticated and very fair immigration policy in the States.
Leaders all over the rest of the world should take "some examples -- and act" the same way.

I was "surfing to DipNote via the DipNote banner" when I had the chance to hit a very interesting scrolling "head topic", concerning the DV-2010 Diversity Visa Lottery. I found it very interesting and after a few minutes I was reading the instructions trying to "analyze" and understand the deeper philosophy of this program that allows and helps immigration, but it does it in a secure way for the Country -- and the immigrants!

I also found the "prerequisites and steps" extremely wise and moral for both sides (U.S. and the probable immigrants).

I am sure that many native Americans there -- especially the claustrophobics -- may have a different opinion, but as long as I do not know the "internal U.S. area" of the subject I can only proceed toward a comment that has to do with the U.S. immigration policy compared to the rest of the Western World. If you compare E.U. immigration policy to U.S.A. immigration policy and programs, you will easily understand that U.S.A. takes an A+ while E.U. just a D (a "pass", as there is no immigration policy or EUFED immigration police neither locally, nor in a federal E.U. basis).

Some people may not understand the importance of this parameter. However, in the domino world of today here is a "geographical" example: people from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, Syria, Africa (from anywhere) make it to "move" in Greece, through Turkey, or other borders. Then, they either stay here in Greece or take the boat to Italy and they reach their final destination to Rome, London or Halifax/Canada by plane, or boats again -- and it goes, maybe to U.S. next. That counts for many other "intermediate countries" and their "links to the next one", not only Greece, Turkey etc..

Immigration is a GLOBAL and VERY serious THEME!

Thank God U.S.A. is a land with an experienced, tested and successful immigration policy. All the other nations must cooperate and take "advice" on something they are very new to face alone. It's not offensive to take the "know how" from someone who knows better than you and really cares to help you?

And America knows the subject better than anyone! After all it's an immigrant Nation.

John @ Shawnna in Massachusetts -- It is really a beautiful story (among hundreds/thousands of others we do not know) that prove how difficult it is to work for an embassy abroad. Some people think that diplomats' specialty is to hold a reception for other countries' diplomats. As you wisely mention through your "deeper value" of your comment: it's not "a walk in the park" and the "garden is not often always a rose one".

Best Regards Shawnna.

New Mexico, USA
November 14, 2008

Eric in New Mexico writes:

@ Josh, (chuckle)...kind of hard to be upset with them for trying to defraud the process since they are trying so hard to make ammends, having lost face by getting caught.

Very amusing....keep up the good work!

New Mexico, USA
November 14, 2008

Eric in New Mexico writes:

@ John in Greece, After 9/11 it would have been tempting to simply close our borders, but the policy is a reflection of the unwillingness on the part of our government to let terrorism change the nature of this open society we live in.

Nor will we allow terrorists to cause us to yank the welcome mat from our door and shut the world out. Or withdraw from the world, for that matter.

And there lies the "deeper philosophy" you spoke of in a nutshell.

November 19, 2008

TI in Pakistan writes:

Nice work indeed.

But when you have all the docs at your disposal and you have reveiwed them, you should grant the visa rather than saying that the case is in admin processing :) (after saying that visas will be granted soon)

This may appear vague but its true. Not a single guy in my company has got visa even though our company has answered an RFE of 600 pages long ago and provided the SU embassy every thing they asked for.


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