05/11/18: US Consulate

Our visit to the US Consulate here in Ho Chi Minh City surprised me as one of the most interesting things we have done in Vietnam so far. I fully expected the visit to be a stiff meeting with government officials who would either baffle us with jargon, bore us with uninteresting information, or speak patronizingly to us lowly students. Instead, we received a very interesting and dynamic discussion about the Consulate and its role in Vietnam which increased my insight into the way in which the US government operates when it comes to foreign affairs.

The consulate, as part of the State Department, belongs to the executive branch and as such acts as a representative for the president of the United States to the country to which it is located. Those who work in the consulate preform a variety of tasks from taking the applications of people who apply for visas and interviewing them to working with the Vietnamese government to organize programs that help develop the country to looking for ways to improve Vietnam – US trade relations. Overall, US investment and contribution to development in Vietnam means that the likelihood of any future conflict is decreased as both country’s have a stake in each other’s economy. Developing Vietnam also helps to make the Asian region of the world more stable and provides opportunity for the US to have more influence through their alliance with Vietnam in such an important region for shipping and trade as well as politics

The duty of visa application review is a large one at the US Consulate of Ho Chi Minh City. Two types of visa applications are processed there: immigrant and non-immigrant visas. For immigration visa’s, Vietnamese people fill out extensive paperwork to prove that they have a good reason for going to the United States such as to join a family member who is already there. After the paperwork is accepted, an interview is preformed by a worker at the consulate who is looking to determine if the claims of a relationship to someone in the US are legitimate. Depending on the category or relationship or reason for immigration, the who process can take anywhere from days to weeks to years. The US Consulate in Ho Chi Minh City processes the fifth or sixth greatest volume of immigrant visa applications compared to any other in the world. Non-immigrant visas are processed similarly, however in the interview instead of proving a relationship, the interviewer assumes that the applicant is ineligible for the visa due to their potential intention to immigrate. The applicant’s job is to prove in the interview that they have no intention of immigrating to the US by demonstrating that they have strong ties to Vietnam or great reasons not to stay in the US. Non-immigrant visas take less time to process than immigrant visas with a processing time of only a few weeks.

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