MEETING WITH CONSULAR SECTION By Heidi Son, Esq.
US Embassy, Amman Jordan
Having just recently moved to Amman Jordan less than three months ago, I had the pleasure of meeting and interviewing the Consular Chief of the U.S. Embassy in Amman, Jordan, Ian Hopper.
The U.S. Embassy building in Amman is unlike others I’ve visited in the past. The architecture is distinctly Middle Eastern with its yellowish grey, rectangular stones, and circular layout. Just outside the Embassy, huge, black armoured personnel carriers with uniformed soldiers stand guard. Despite feeling a bit intimidated, I also feel thankful for the extra sense of protection and safety.
On November 5, 2014, as I stepped into the Consular Section, the entire office was buzzing with activity, multiple phone lines ringing off the hook, officers rushing by with stack of papers. Given the geopolitical situation surrounding Jordan, I was not surprised. Being the Chief, Ian was obviously, extremely busy as well, and so, I especially appreciated him taking the time to answer my questions. After the hour-long interview, it became even more apparent to me that the Consular Section was doing its very best to serve and help as many as possible (American citizens and foreign nationals alike) and as quickly as possible despite the geopolitical restraints. At the end of the day, I appreciated even more the hustle and bustle of the office, and Ian taking time away from his demanding schedule.
Below are the questions and answers exchanged during the interview:
- GENERAL OPERATIONS
Please confirm the following inquiry emails:
- NIV: support-Jordan@ustraveldocs.com or +962-6-579-9560
- E Visa Unit: NONE
- IV: firstname.lastname@example.org. No inquiries in person or by phone.
- Ineligibility waivers: USCIS.Amman@dhs.gov
In the event of an emergency, how would you recommend that we contact the post?
For U.S. citizens issues only, ask for the after-hours duty officer at: 06-590-6500.
Staffing Changes anticipated over next 6 months?
In the next 6 months, the deputy chief will rotate. In 1.5 years, the section chief will also rotate. Next year, in 2015, the Amman Post hopes to add at least one more consular officer.
Attending the interview –
- On average, how many interviews are conducted per day?
- Sunday, Tues and Thurs: NIV: 200; IV: 50
- Monday and Wednesday: NIV: 300; IV: none
- ACS: 30-40/everyday
- How early in advance can the applicant show up for the scheduled appointment?
The Post policy is that applicants arrive at the Embassy no more than 15 min before appointment time. Early arrivals are asked to depart and return closer to the appointment time.
- Can the applicant store small electronics at the embassy before going through security or must they be stored offsite?
There is no storage area. Everyone entering the Embassy must give their cellphones (and other electronics) over to security when they enter.
- What is the average wait time for the NIV interview? IV?
For NIV: Once enter the embassy, 80-85% cases, goal is to have everyone in and out in less than an hour.
For IV: less than 2 hours.
Under what circumstances does a Consular Officer refer a case for an Advisory Opinion (AO)?
The Post refers cases for Advisory Opinions only for certain statutorily required cases. In Amman, the Embassy has many other resources at hand as it is a very diverse Embassy. AO referral rate is very very low.
If administrative processing is required on a case, how long are the responses typically taking (within 30 days/60 days?)? Will the consular officer specify or disclose if the administrative processing is due to a Security Advisory Opinion (SAO), name check, technology transfer or internal admissibility review?
The Consular section has no control on how long this process can take, although most complete in 4-6 weeks. The Embassy cannot elaborate on the reasons for administrative processing.
Do you have many issues with fraud? Can an attorney provide any supporting evidence that might assist the post with addressing any concerns? Overcoming non-immigrant intent? % of denial rates for each type of visa?
The majority of B-1/B-2 applications that come through Amman get approved. Denial rates are available at travel.state.gov. Amman is not a high fraud post. There are no special documents requested or required. The vetting process is through the in-person interview.
Post’s acceptance of third country nationals for NIV processing? Are there any
particular third country nationals that the post accepts? Is it only for certain visas?
For NIV applicants, the Embassy in Amman will schedule whoever wants to come. About 20% of the cases are 3rd country nationals. The Embassy in Amman processes more Libyan nationals than any other post. Syrian and Iraqi nationals make the next largest groups processed in Jordan.
Post’s preference re: G-28? Necessary? From Petitioner or Applicant?
In vast majority of cases, yes, the Embassy prefers to have a G-28 on file.
What are the most frequently seen NIVs at this post? % of various types of visa applications that go through Amman.
The vast majority of NIVs are B-1/B-2. There were fewer than 25 H and L cases in last year. Maybe a handful of E cases.
- IMMIGRANT VISA ISSUANCE
For IV cases, is an I-824 required before post will commence processing of a following to join spouse or dependent child?
What is the current wait time between approval of an IV petition by USCIS Rome District Office and notification by the IV unit of applicant’s case number and instructions to start the IV process?
A USCIS officer is present at the Amman Post, so IV petitions are accepted through that officer. After approval, instructions are provided immediately.
Are there any specific issues post routinely sees in relation to the IV process such as Affidavit of Support issues (domicile, assets, etc), unavailable documents (birth certificates, police certificates, etc) or inadmissibility issues (material misrepresentation, 3/10 year bar, etc)?
Many Syrians cannot get or no longer have some vital documents like birth certificates. However, the post is generous in waiving these uncontrollable insufficiencies. Post recently redefined its police clearance to be a Certificate of Non-Conviction from PSD, rather than the GID certificate. Instructions are on the Embassy’s website at jordan.usembassy.gov
- PROCESSING & ATTORNEY COMMUNICATION
Post’s preferred inquiry communication procedure for pending cases (call/fax/email through homepage)? Denied cases?
Email is preferred for pending or denied cases. For 214(b) cases, you will get only the standard response.
Are there certain cases which the post has designated as high fraud and additional documentation is required?
This again is not a high fraud post. No particular category has been designated as high fraud risk. All cases are vetted based on interview. No particular document is required.
Could the post provide the list of additional documents required for those cases?
Not really. Because applicant can “create” any document. Again, the interview is key.
The Post does offer a Corporate Visa Program (“CVP”). Currently, there are 22 company members like Royal Jordanian Airlines, Petra Engineering, etc. One a company applies and is approved for CVP, the company provides a list of signatories and employees who frequently travel on behalf of the company. With just a letter from the company signed by one of the listed signatories, these employees can go through an expedited process for visas. Apply at: email@example.com
How long on average does post keep a file before returning to USCIS for revocation? Is post open to an attorney request for an opportunity to rebut?
Revocation is not common, but cases are typically sent for revocation about 4 weeks after the decision is delivered to the applicant.
Post’s recommendation for best manner for attorneys to bring to post’s attention arguments of admissibility. In cover letter? Legal memo presented at time of interview?
Memo or letter brought to the interview to show to the officer is fine. Such supporting documentation will be accepted at the window.
Outside of maintaining politeness, what would be your strongest suggestion to counsel (i.e., what can immigration counsel do to improve the working relationship)?
Assume good intentions on the part of the consulate officers who are trying to do a good job. Please be sensitive to the geopolitical situation surrounding Jordan. Please note information about Syrian applicants below.
What is this post’s position on right to in person representation by counsel? If not allowed, why not? If allowed, is it only for particular types of cases (i.e., direct IV cases, E visas, etc). What guidelines would post like attorneys to follow?
Embassy is happy to work with attorneys as usually they help facilitate the cases. However, attorneys cannot come to interview. The applicants must come to Embassy by themselves. Some IV applicants are represented, but primarily through the petitioner and during the petition process with USCIS. Very few NIV applicants have counsel.
Special considerations for Syrian applicants?
The Jordanian government has barred Syrians from entering Jordan by air. Despite this, the U.S. Embassy has tried its best to facilitate entry of Syrian applicants with IV interview appointments scheduled in Amman.
U.S. Embassy has arranged for two specific flights from Beirut to Jordan on Royal Jordanian Airlines for Syrian IV applicants to enter Jordan for their interview. Once the Embassy schedules an applicant, the Embassy contacts the applicant to provide information about travel. After the applicant reserves a seat on one of the two flights, the Embassy sends his/her information to the Jordanian Government and to Royal Jordanian Airlines to allow purchase of a ticket and facilitate entry into Jordan. Syrian applicants can usually enter a day before the interview, have the interview, then receive their visa within a week. The entire stay in Jordan is about a week.
Despite its efforts, the U.S. Embassy does not control the airlines nor the Jordanian border, and cannot assure that all Syrian nationals will receive permission to arrive into Amman. While the Embassy tries to facilitate the process, it is still possible to be denied entry into Jordan. The Embassy recommends that applicants are polite to Jordanian government officials and contact the Embassy in case s/he encounters difficulties. If the applicant ultimately cannot enter Jordan, s/he should seek to transfer his/her case to another U.S. Embassy. For questions, please contact the Embassy at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- AMERICAN CITIZENS SERVICES
About a third of what the Consular Section in Amman does relates to American Citizens Services. The Consular Chief had the following tips for U.S. citizens traveling to Jordan:
- Register with step.state.gov: If you do not register, the Embassy cannot notify you in case of regional security issues and/or family emergency.
- Be aware of travel alerts in each country to which you are traveling in this region. For example, for Jerusalem, the travel alerts changes all the time.
- Be wary of rumors. Jordan is a rumor heavy country. News in local newspapers, texts, internet, etc. are not always accurate. Check the U.S. Embassy website.
- Take prudent steps as usual although Jordan is a welcoming country to foreign nationals. While Jordan is a safe country with many American families residing here, you should take prudent steps in protecting yourselves. Be aware of your surroundings, keep your cell phones charged, avoid demonstrations.
- Be informed about Jordanian law. U.S. citizens are subject to the laws of Jordan. No immunity and no special treatment for U.S. citizens. For instance, the U.S. Embassy cannot get you out of jail. Please check the Embassy website for general guidance on Jordanian laws.
- If you have any questions or concerns in Jordan, you can come in and talk with the Embassy or contact us at Amman-ACS@state.gov.