Ah, the American Passport experience!
Trip Start Jul 04, 2010
23Trip End Jul 23, 2010
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We moved quickly, actually, to one of the interview windows where the consular officers interview the Kenyans seeking immigrant and non-immigrant (visitor) visas – a huge line inside and out. One of our friends around the table with the Bahati Church leadership said, "it will be easier to get into Heaven than into the United States!" (I thought they might prefer heaven, but maybe not too soon!) I did have to wait a bit, as the place was, as we were told, understaffed. While waiting, I heard two conversations from/with applicants for visas which were quite interesting and revealing
My interview was also very interesting: The officer explained that he could not go into any detail about the reasons for denial of the visas, but repeated that the criteria for acceptance are:
1) Stability of employment and adequate income demonstrated, bank account with continuity (nothing of significant recent addition!)
2) Family situation, sufficient to assure returning to Kenya
3) No significant changes in circumstance of recent note
4) No apparent reason for wanting to stay in America (family circumstances here or there)
Letters of invitation do matter some, but they should be attachments to an e-mail from the inviting party to an address for the U.S
Also those who have been denied a visa will be interviewed by a different officer than they saw the first time around, but the denial flags the application, and unless there is really an almost compelling reason for reconsidering, the presumption in a majority of cases is that the application will be denied again! Only a very small percentage of re-applications are approved.
My own feeling, after the conversation, is that Jane Gitubia’s application was denied because of a worsening of her financial situation – no longer living in the house belonging to PCEA Bahati Martyrs Congregation, salary reduced, husband without permanent employment! Ouch! We will try to have conversations with others who have been denied the visa and seek to discern reasons for the denials! The other thing we must have our Kenyan partners do is a much more thorough preparation, sharing of experience, perhaps even rehearsal for the interviews, which are very short, given the press of the crowds waiting to see the interviewing officers.
I do understand also that the mandate of the Consular Department is to protect the United States, from allowing anyone to enter who might become a problem for the U.S., not so much for any kind of terror (that screening undoubtedly takes place at another level!) but more to prevent any additional “economic burden” for the country – someone who might come and overstay the visitor visa (though I had in hand a three-page list of all the persons invited by the Presbytery – none of whom had overstayed their time or failed to return, even young people for the Triennium (national youth meetings) or pastors-in-residence who stayed for eight-week periods! Of no interest, just past history, to the Interviewing Officer. We, too, have to look to the future rather than to past history, interesting as it might be!
We were actually through early! As I said, the U.S. Passport had us jumping ahead of every line! It took less than an hour from the time we were dropped off at the front security gate. So we had time we had not anticipated, and were off to the Giraffe Center! Picture, I hope, of a couple of us feeding the giraffes. Especially Daisy, the Tall Blond (there’s a children’s story by that name, I understand!) There is a lot of information about the giraffes and other Kenyan wild-life and a great effort to teach and preach and practice conservation!
Did I mention that I lifted up the Warthog in my sermon, as perhaps the type we ought to emulate as “prayer warriors?” The warthog, despite his small size, is rated a fierce and fearless, willing to take on any creature. Thought we ought to be that way in our prayers, tackling seriously any problem or issue and unrelenting, persistent in prayer!!
In addition, we did manage to spend a little gift money at the gift shop there at the Giraffe Center, too!
Then we were off to lunch (Michael’s recommendation!) at The Verandah – great meal, and also a few shops for some more gifts. Afterward to the Bead Shop (a women’s cooperative, empowerment project, where women are employed both the pottery factory adjacent to the shop, making beads and selling in the store. Apparently this operation is known and ships/sells around the world!
Finally back home, where we caught up with Pat Nordman and swapped stories of our various separate week-end adventures.