The never ending never ending wait for a visa

Sunday, February 6th, 2011
By: Jonathan MontagJ.D.

I wrote before about my Egyptian friend, Abdulrahim Kewan, on October 17, 2010, “The Never-Ending Wait for a Visa.”  I recounted the legal travails of Mr. Kewan whose efforts to become a permanent resident of the Unite States, which he came to in 1996, turned sour when he made the fateful decision to ask for directions from gate guards at Camp Pendleton when we got lost driving in October 2002. As the old posting and newspaper reports discuss, he was ordered removed from the United States despite having an approved visa petition as a battered spouse.

His removal was not the end of the case. We have been working to bring him back since he was deported in early 2004. We filed a request to waive his inadmissibility for being deported (Form I-212) in September 2006, after the Court of Appeals rejected his appeal, and it was approved in November 2009 – more than three years later. He was interviewed for his permanent residence visa on May 6, 2010. For the interview, I provided Mr. Kewan with a detailed letter to give to the consular officer explaining what had happened to him and analyzed potential grounds for denying the visa and showed that only one applied, his prior deportation, and that was cured by the approved I-212. I provided a photocopy of the approved I-212. Everything went well and the consulate kept his passport to affix a visa.

Then the waiting began. The phrase, “administrative processing” raised its ugly head. Background checks were pending is what the phrase means. As if the government had not checked him out enough in the sixteen months he was locked up. In fact at his removal hearing, an FBI agent and a Naval Criminal Investigative Service (which is also the Navy’s intelligence service) agent testified about their extensive investigations that turned up nothing adverse. Finally, in late October 2010, the Consulate contacted Mr. Kewan – they never contact me. I am just the lawyer, I guess. They told him he needed to take a new TB test. They sent him his passport back, needed for the doctor’s visit, and he then sent it back with the test results. Logic and experience made me think that the security checks were resolved, the case was reviewed, the TB test issue was found, and once it was resolved, he would finally get his visa. What was I thinking?

In December, the Consulate told Mr. Kewan he needed an I-212 waiver. This was peculiar because he already got the waiver and I had provided a copy of it. I contacted the Consulate. Mr. Kewan was told that the Consulate needed the original approval notice. This was very odd. The USCIS computer system, available to the general public, indicates the case was approved. According to the I-212 approval notice, USCIS forwarded the approval notice to the U.S. Consulate in Cairo when it approved the I-212. I emailed the Consulate and “Legalnet” to ask why the U.S. Consulate could possibly want the original approval notice when it is a U.S. government generated document evidencing the approval of an application approved by the U.S. government and easily verifiable in the government’s own computers. Plus, the USCIS officers at the Consulate could verify the approval through their organization. Nonetheless, on Christmas eve I sent the approval notice. Finally, I thought, Mr. Kewan will get his visa.

A brief word about Legalnet. This is an email service provided to attorneys by the Department of State to help resolve legal problems in cases. It is an invaluable service to visa applicants for a simple reason – the consular officers deal with a bewilderingly complex set of law. A new consular officer is often confronted with odd issues and has to make complex analyses involving eligibility for a visa. He or she cannot possibly be aware of all the statutes, regulations, policy letters, court case law, and operating instructions for every issue. So, under the pressure of the workload and sometimes arrogance (You know what they say about a little knowledge?), mistakes are made. Legalnet is there to straighten out the mess. Attorneys and consular officers who have observed the blunders of their peers, which they cannot intercede to correct because of bureaucratic restraint, sing its praises.

Then the Consulate contacted Mr. Kewan again in January 2010 – eight months after his interview where all the issues are supposed to be identified. This time they said they wanted a Form I-601 waiver application and filing fee. This form is to waive many grounds of inadmissibility. Different grounds have different criteria for a waiver. What ground did Mr. Kewan need a waiver for, they did not tell Mr. Kewan.

I emailed the Consulate and Legalnet on January 6, 2011, about this. I pointed out:

1. The case has been pending since the interview in May 2010 and issues of inadmissibility were addressed then;

2. I sent a detailed letter delivered at the interview in May 2010 laying out all the inadmissibility issues and demonstrated how because of the nature of the case, the only issue in the case was cured by the I-212;

3. I did not know why an I-601 was needed. It is hard to respond to a request for a waiver of a ground of inadmissibility if you do not know what the ground it;

4. I re-submitted the explanation about how no other grounds of inadmissibility apply.

I heard nothing. I emailed Legalnet and the consulate again on January 19, 2011, asking if the original email is being worked on, just to have some assurance my emails was not being ignored. As of today, still no answer.

How long should I expect to wait? The Department of State informed the American Immigration Lawyers Association on October 28, 2010:

Our target is to reply to all Legalnet inquiries within seven working days. In practice, most Legalnet inquires are answered well within this time frame. In those few cases that require legal research necessitating a longer time-frame, we ill send an interim reply to the attorney in the meantime.  I have not received a response or an interim reply since January 6 despite a January 19 follow-up. The greatest pain in life is to be ignored. Hopefully someone on the inside will feel my pain — maybe even the wife of our former pain-feeler-in-chief? Posted February 6, 2011.

 


 

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