Mr. Amponsah could hardly believe his eyes. He had just been refused a B visa to attend her daughter’s graduation ceremony in the U.S. He walked dejectedly out of the US consulate in Accra towards his expectant wife who stood some yards away across the road.
“How could the officer refuse me the visa?” he bellowed in anger and bewilderment. “I had every document that they required of me. I answered all questions. What makes the officer think that I will leave my well-paid job to live in the U.S.?” He snapped his hands in disgust and added: “the officer did not even bother to look at my documents despite my attempts to let him do so”.
This scenario is a familiar occurrence at many U.S. consulates. Many feel gutted and are unable to understand why the consular officer (CO) refused them a visa without bothering to look at their documents.
Why did the CO refuse look at my documents?
The Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM) provides that the CO must determine an applicant’s eligibility to receive a visa and on the basis of the applicant’s personal interview and other relevant documentation.
It provides further that the CO should provide the visa applicant with an opportunity to present evidence establishing the veracity of his or her application in either oral or written form. Clearly, this means that the CO should examine your evidence in adjudicating your eligibility for the visa.
However another part of the FAM provides that nonimmigrant visa applicants are not required to submit extensive documentation in support of their cases. It states that the CO should carefully consider whether to require documents of applicants.
It additionally provides that if local documents are unreliable, easily and often forged, or otherwise implausible, the CO should consider the utility of requiring them of applicants as they add no value to the adjudication. And considering that the burden of proof for establishing eligibility lies with the applicant, it appears that the CO is not bound to examine your documents to determine your eligibility for a visa.
Why bother carry documents if the CO will not look at them?
The B visa is generally not a documentary application. Your eligibility for the visa is therefore not conditioned on the strength of your documents. Nonetheless, it is always important to carry along your documents even if you think the CO will not look at them.
As we noted in the FAM, your eligibility for the visa is determined on your personal interview and other relevant documentation. This means that the CO may request to see your document at any time during your interview. Whiles the CO may request to see your document, he is not bound to do so, and in the majority of the cases, will adjudicate your eligibility for the visa without requesting to see them.
What must I do then to establish my eligibility?
Your personal interview remains the true test for your visa eligibility. Your oral evidence involves the statements made by you at your interview. Whiles putting together a number of documents may be necessary for your interview, it is far better to channel your time in reviewing the information on the documents and the information you provided on your Form DS-160.
The CO may not look at documents of all the houses and the fat bank accounts you may have in your possession. Your eligibility is determined beyond these.
The Form DS-160 is the primary document available to the CO at the time of your interview. Make sure it is fully and accurately completed. A Form DS-160 riddled with basic errors will usually raise concerns about your credibility. Be confident and be who you claim to be. I always tell people: “How could the CO believe that you have strong financial ties to your home country when you hardly look like the person you claim to be or your answers at the interview raises doubts on your claimed status?”