Monday, November 19, 2012

My Job.

In my well-intentioned efforts to start and maintain a blog, I realize I have not really delved into what a consular officer does. One dictionary defines a 'consul' as "an official appointed by a government to reside in a foreign country and represent his or her government's commercial interests and assist its citizens there." I would say that is fairly accurate. As a consular officer, my duties include, but are not limited to, providing assistance to U.S. citizens abroad in the country where I serve, and facilitating business and legitimate travel to the United States to further our interests worldwide.

Let's say you, a U.S. citizen, get into a brawl in a Mumbai dive bar and end up in jail. A consular officer would visit you in jail and assist you in obtaining necessary services. What if you decide to utilize assisted reproductive technology (ART) to have children through a surrogate at a clinic in Gujurat? A consular officer will register the births of your U.S. citizen children. What if you experience a terrorist attack or natural disaster during your annual vacation in Goa? Consular officers will work tirelessly to obtain medical services, help in evacuations, and much, much more. In short, we are at your service abroad, my dear fellow Americans, and receive great satisfaction from doing so.

And what of non-U.S. citizens? We provide consular services in the form of visas for travel to the United States, both immigrant and non-immigrant in nature. We are responsible for protecting our country's borders and ensure that the U.S. travel being facilitated is legitimate, that the person being issued the visa will use it for the purpose it is meant to be used for. Consular officers make active efforts to reach out to host country citizens and demystify the visa process, explain what they need to do and what our role in the process is. We have the pleasure of issuing visas to reunite families, for medical surgery, births, weddings, funerals, business meetings, tourism, and for a multitude of other reasons. We are also responsible for deciding whether an individual's travel to the U.S. is legitimate. U.S. law presumes non-immigrant visa applicants are intending immigrants, and the burden of proof is on the applicant to demonstrate they are not. This determination is made by consular officers, carefully and efficiently, with respect for each applicant emphasized. We understand many applicants travel long distances and pay sums that are expensive for them to reach our windows, and we make every effort to treat each person with dignity, whether we are able to grant them a visa or not.

An inadequate description of my daily work to be sure, as there are many other duties and responsibilities of diplomats not discussed here, but with a particular emphasis on consular work, I hope I have been able to give a glimpse into what we do, and why it is important to us.

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