9/28/09 Guangzhou, China
I just finished an extraordinary meeting with the Immigrant Visa Unit Chief at the Guangzhou U.S. Consulate (by the way, the information that I had earlier posted on my blog that a new Unit Chief was appointed in late July 2009 was incorrect; it’s the same person who has been there for a year and a half).
For those who haven’t read the rest of this blog, I travelled to Guangzhou almost exactly a year ago to get some information about K visa processing after having been completely frustrated for over a year trying to figure out what the heck was going on here. At that time, the Unit Chief refused to meet with me, and the Consular Officer I spoke with during Petitioner Hour refused to give me any meaningful information about my cases or about visa processing in general.
This time, the Unit Chief met with me for about 20 minutes and we had a wide-ranging discussion that covered many subjects. The Unit Chief was astonishing forthright and helpful. She answered every single question I asked her.
Here are some of the highlights:
The Guangzhou Consulate considers the K-3 a visa type that has lost its usefulness due to changes in processing times of I-130 petitions (which have gotten substantially shorter since the K-3 law was passed) and the processing times for K-3 visas (which are much longer than was originally contemplated by the drafters of the K-3 visa law). The two processing times have virtually collided and the K-3 saves at most two months time now, while adding substantially to the administrative burden of the overseas consulates. She’s largely right on that score. The game is scarcely worth the candle now that I-130 cases are taking less and less time and K-3 times remain stagnant. This disparity will get even less as petitioners opt for electronic processing of the I-130, the Unit Chief points out. Further, she reports that there’s an effort underway to change DHS policy so that K-3 petitions cannot proceed from the NVC to the consulate/embassy until the I-130 has also arrived at the NVC and has finished processing. This change, if implemented, this will further diminish the usefulness of the K-3 petition.
The Unit Chief was also refreshingly candid about the fact that the Consulate can and does make mistakes. She said this was particularly true in 2008 as the Consulate sought to work down the huge backlog it inherited from 2007. She says that the backlog now is zero and the Consulate is now current in its processing. That’s probably correct, too. In our experience, prior to 2008 petitioners and beneficiaries had to wait seven to eight months from CIS approval to interview date. Now it’s four to five months on average.
Attorneys are now allowed to make an inquiry about one specific case per Petitioner Hour meeting, although there’s no limit to the number of general questions. I asked the UC about the specifics of one particularly puzzling revocation case from 2008 (for which we currently have a K-3 petition pending), and she read to me several of the consular officer’s notes on the case. We therefore have a better understanding about what we need to do to make the K-3 interview a success.
There were other things she revealed, but I’m not sure I’m at liberty to discuss them. I want to check before posting.
One of the most surprising things that occurred was that te UC actually answered my question about what percentage of K visa beneficiaries are approved on the day of the interview (that is, a “pink sheet” rather than a white or blue sheet). She said “about 50%”. This was a higher number than I expected and shows that the earlier optimism that a new Consul General would substantially reduce visa refusals may have been premature. Our impression was that in the weeks after the new CG appeared at post the IV unit was approving a substantial majority of K visa cases on the first day. During the last six weeks, though, we’ve noticed an increase in the number of petitioners contacting us regarding cases returned to CIS by GUZ with a recommendation for revocation. So there’s obviously still work to be done shaking the Consulate from its skepticism about Chinese-American romances.
I’m optimistic, though, because better communication between the Consulate and affected parties (and it could scarcely be worse than it was until only recently) can help the Consulate better appreciate how authentic most couples are and to realize that a lot of good couples are getting caught in the Consulate’s overly broad fraud profile net.
One amusing final note - just before I left the meeting the Unit Chief ardently stated “We’re not the enemy, you know!”. I’m guessing she read my 3/15/09 memo. OK, I can let bygones be bygones if there's real change at Guangzhou.