Thursday, June 22, 2006

214(b)

For some reason, Thursday adjudications are always strange, but today was particularly weird. I had almost a 10% refusal rate, which is about 4 or 5 times my normal average. And even the issuable applicants were just... bizarre. It's difficult to explain. Things just didn't seem quite in balance. I think Wednesday night was the summer solstice, so maybe that played a part. My colleague Jerome and I found ourselves repeatedly stepping back from our windows to cast puzzled glances at each other.

When lunch finally rolled around, Jerome laid his head on his desk in exhaustion, and I grabbed my book to go find a place to hide and recover. You can perhaps imagine the scenario: I'm stepping out into the rain, book in hand, considering where one can be at least semi-alone in the urban crush of Osaka (note: nowhere), when one of the consulate guards hurries over. [in Japanese] "Uh, Katie-san," he waves his hands a bit, looking somewhat confused, "there's sort of, this girl..."

This is when I realize that one of the applicants Jerome refused is waiting outside the consulate.

I do not become scared very easily, but I was definitely tense. I couldn't believe the guards would allow a visa applicant to loiter at the consulate door, waiting to pounce. I couldn't believe that after that hellish morning I was now in the unenviable position of sizing up someone else's refusal, wondering if I could take her in a fight. I couldn't believe that I had never thought to carry mace, a gun, a nightstick, a brick... I couldn't walk away, because then she could follow me and I wouldn't even have the guard to protect me. And I don't think anyone in Japan would come to my defense if I were being attacked, especially as the applicant was another foreigner.

The situation, luckily, did not come to that, and I was able to pacify her by briefly explaining a little more about reasons for rejections, and what her options were (stalking consular officers was definitely not on the list). She told me thank you at the end of it, which is actually my goal whenever I reject an applicant. I'd say I achieve that goal about 80% of the time, but usually with the comfort of a pane of bullet proof glass between myself and the rejectee. As soon as she walked away, I turned somewhat angrily to the guard and told him to never EVER allow that to happen to any of us again.

This evening, when I left work alone and began the walk back to the train station, I found myself looking over my shoulder. I don't want this job to make me mistrustful. I don't ever want the first thing I think when I encounter someone to be 'What does this person want? Is she going to hurt me?' People are basically good. I really believe that. I want to be able to live like I believe it.

5 comments:

Consul-At-Arms said...

Lunchbreaks in NIV?

Anonymous said...

I got laughed at today because my refusal rate was only 28%. I get no credibility unless I am in the 60% or higher zone. A colleuge of mine who often speaks of a certain city in Africa is alwyas well above 70% refusal.

Our applicants do seem to loiter at times and I have never been thanked by a 214b, ok once, but he thought I had stamped a visa in his passport when I stamped application received. Not sure I feel in danger from any of these guys - most are considerably shorter and lighter than me.

Hope you are making good notes now...

Anonymous said...

Wow. Thanks for a valuable lesson in email politics before I get out to post.

As far as withdrawing, yeap. Been there, done that. DOS does strange things to people.

Katie said...

Isn't it funny the silly pissing contests we get into regarding consular work? Everyone always wants to be either a) 'tougher' on the applicants than you, or b) prove they're serving at a 'harder' post than you. I don't personally like the notion that we should have refusal 'quotas'; sometimes I'm at 10%, sometimes 2% -- it just depends on who happens to walk up to my window. We do check our median rates against each other at my post, with the idea that decisions should be standardized to the greatest extent possible. But that's different than having to think, "Gee, my refusal rate is pretty low today -- guess I better deny these next few people..."

I would ignore your colleague. Being unnecessarily harsh is nothing to be proud of; it just helps sow animosity against America, and so increases the likelihood of terrorist attacks. Tell him he's aiding and abetting the enemy ("When you deny a qualified applicant, you issue to Bin Laden!"). Or should I just write my opinion to you in an email, and you can forward it to him..?

Anonymous said...

yeah, well he is kind of a tool in the office, but pretty nice outside. Guess some of us are motivated in different ways - I take my time to listen to the applicants. Perhaps a good number of them are fooling with me, but I suspect some of his denials are probably issue-worthy. I hope we are not building an army of Bin Lauden's troops in our lobby. RSO would not like that.