I teach couples to always stay focused on what is the weakest link in the chain, the consular interview. Here is where visas get “approved or denied”. To be successful, know your consulate, know what they are looking for, and take action to satisfy their “demands” BEFORE embarking on preparing your petition. My signature “front loaded petition” is all about anticipating what the consular officer needs to have, for him to approve, and placing it reliably into his hands before the interview begins.
The US consulate in Ho Chi Minh (Saigon) is the poster child for a tough place to get one’s visa approved. It is easily the strictest of all US consulates for obtaining a fiance or spouse visa. I regularly warn couples about the extra care and attention they must apply to their cases in order to be approved at Ho Chi Minh. While your case may not be on its way to Vietnam, the following story, and details, may help you better understand the process, and what could go wrong.
Last month I’ve gotten a tidal wave of phone calls from couples going through the fiance and spouse visa process at Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam.
They are being delayed, put on administrative processing and some are in that most unpleasant limbo of “the case has been returned to the USA”. They wait as the condemned, hoping for reprieve, but inevitably getting that final letter from USCIS saying “bad new is: you have been denied. Good new is: you are WELCOME to waste time and money and file an appeal”. Of course, appealing is pointless. The the answer is always no, after a $600 filing fee and having your life on hold for another 6 to 12 months..
Yesterday’s call was from a Binh a restaurant Chef, of Vietnamese origin, now a US citizen. He had applied over 16 months ago. His case approved by USCIS in a few months, and sent to Vietnam.
His fiance got her interview booked in record time of about 7 months. The interview seemed to go ok, BUT the consular officer asked for a few more documents. Chef and fiancee rushed to answer the questions asked on the “blue slip”, produced notarised statements, gathered additional proofs, and finally sped their response package to the consulate’s collection window.
Then waited. And waited. And waited.
Even though they chased the consulate with an email asking for status reports each week, Nothing happened. Eventually after 4 months of silence each got a separate phone call. He in the USA, and she in Vietnam, were asked a series of questions, the conversations recorded, and ending with “ok that’s all we need to know”. Waiting resumed. One month, two months, three.
Not hearing any updates from the consulate, the couple would regularly check in at the “Visa Status Check” page that the State Department has posted at https://ceac.state.gov/CEAC/..
For almost a year the status reported the dreaded “Administrative Processing”. Yesterday, the news worsened. The status now reads “Returned to NVC”. This means the consulate has denied, and returned the case to the USA. Eventually USCIS will contact the couple to confirm the negative results.
Binh called me (first time caller) for encouragement and what does it mean? Well, realistically speaking, what it means is “Dead Jim, dead”. It is all over but the final letter from USCIS. I told him he did not need to wait for the “final shoe to drop”, that instead we could immediately, repair and resubmit. As is so often the case, he plans not to take any action but to wait, just in case of “reprieve”.
My advice? Well, first I told him what he had done wrong, (See my video recently updated that lists exactly why fiancee and spouse visas are routinely denied and what steps need to be taken to achieve visa success, then I explained what we could do to clean up the mess. As soon as he is ready (once he gives up the futile hope for good news and reprieve).
His work schedule gives him time to travel each spring. We should start working in earnest on his case 2 to 3 months before his next planned trip. I plan to guide him to do what needs to be done, including committing to a traditional engagement celebration (Dinh Hon), and instructing him step by step, on what to do during his trip. What to do, who to meet, what photos to take.
If he follows my lead. we will be able to submit a fully persuasive “front loaded petition” that should convince even the hyper skeptical consular officers at the consulate in Vietnam to issue the visa. Binh and Fiance should be able to finally join their lives together in the USA
By Fred Wahl