At the US counselors office, United States citizens who work for the state department act as representatives for Washington DC in the Ho Chi Minh area and provide services to the Vietnamese people. The largest service that the Consulate provides is the issuance of visas and immigration permits to the Vietnamese. When a Vietnamese wants to go to the United States for a temporary period of time they must interview with one of the state department employees. The state department employees do 100 interviews per day, and so the interviews are very short. During these interviews the Vietnamese citizen must prove that they do not intend to illegally immigrate to the US. Many times this is very easy, if they have a job or a family here in HoChiMinh then they clearly would not leave them to stay in the United States, but often times the state department has to turn away some of the Vietnamese if they seem suspicious.
One of the main roles of the consulate is to ensure that the United States and Vietnam maintain a strong trade relationship. The consulate reports on economic activity and the mood of local business people via short reports called cables. The economic advisor for the consulate told us that this is a very strategic location due to its location on the South China Sea and it is vital to protect the United State’s economic interest in the area.
I thought that the consulate office was very interesting and I learned a lot about what it would be like to be a state department employee and also about the state of Vietnam from the perspective of Americans who live here. It was very difficult to get good answers to many questions though, the diplomats were very diplomatic, and they often avoided answering questions in order to appear apolitical.