Like them or hate them, the Americans know exactly what they want and go for it. They are very much concerned about their security than many other things after the 9/11 experience. They mean business in terms of who goes to the USA and what for..
When my boss told me that I needed to go to the US for a business conference, the many things that came to my mind were the many stories I had heard about people’s experiences at the consular section of the American Embassy in Nairobi and elsewhere… This did not deter me from starting the process of Visa application. gladly for me, I had very able helping hands to take me all through in a colleague who has worked at the US Embassy before …all the same I kept asking what if…..the visa is denied and so forth! At some point I told my boss, an American as well, that well, if her fellow countrymen liked me and gave me the visa, I would be happy to visit the free world….but should they not, then my life goes on! She was not amused but I really meant it.
Any way to cut the long story short, all went well and an interview was fixed for me to appear before consular officers…and that day traffic was heavy and consequently I got there a few minutes ‘late’ but nonetheless allowed in.
The first thing I saw is how submissive every person going to the consulate was, even the ones that are ordinarily hard headed!…and I joined the queue as humbly as it could be and ushered into the expansive compound after being relieved of anything of value. I mean my mobile phones! from that point onwards I was ‘mteja’ not available on phone.
After a few steps, corners and doors it was my turn to appear at a window for my finger prints to be taken which I did humbly…then ushered at a waiting place outside…..there were drizzles and it was a bit cold but we were many so it was fine for me…. I waited for four hours and was then called back inside to await another turn at the window! I waited…..waited and waited…but the good thing is interviews were being done publicly so I was Ok as I listened to different people arguing their case as to why they want to go to the US: Three cases really mesmerized me:
Case 1: A Somali national who stayed at the window for almost one hour speaking through an interpreter because he was not fluent in English! Except when he felt the interpreter was not hammering his points properly! he would then speak in English! Of course he got a red card meaning rejection!
Case 2: An old man that wanted to go back to his wife in the US…..surprising he had divorced the same wife twice and the consular officer asked him to demonstrate that he is married to him and that they keep in touch…the poor guy then unleashed a pile of framed photos of their happy life together…am not sure whether he got a red or green paper but it was a harrowing experience for him…I felt pity on him but still admired his determination to actualize his American dream again!
Case 3: An old mother and her twelve years old daughter who wanted to go to the US to visit her brother. As soon as they were at the window and the consular officer asked a question, the girl took over and answered ALL of them perfectly and the consular officer gave her the green card in three minutes! Amazing
Then it was my turn and the moment the consular officer saw that I worked for Kenya Immigration in my other life the interview ended as we chatted about how Immigration work is tough with me telling him that he had a tougher job because everyone except me wanted to go to America…Never mind I was actually before him begging for a Visa to go to the USA!…of coz I got the visa!
Indeed America is the place the whole world want to go!
Watch out for part two on my experiences on my way to and in America itself.