Saturday, April 27, 2013

What Does a Consular Officer Do?

So, having escaped with my life and career prospects intact from Indonesian language training, I have moved on to professional training at FSI, specifically consular work.

Many of my friends, upon hearing I had chosen the consular cone for my new job, took me aside and told me that while they valued my steady friendship, they were very worried that my personality type (INTJ) wasn't very well suited to counseling people, what with me being introverted and cold and all.

When I explained that instead I would be at a visa window interviewing dozens of potential immigrants and visitors to the US every day and deciding whether or not they were eligible based on the law, the facts and my judgment their concerns for me were reduced on the personality scale, but they then decided my new job was well, the DMV but for Indonesians.

But as I already knew (and my training has made even MORE clear), consular work is a lot more than that. We live in a global economy, and the US depends on international trade and tourism to a huge and growing degree every year. So you can imagine the interest our government, private companies and people overseas have in consular types facilitating legitimate travel as much as possible.

There are also people out there who want to hurt us, and they also very badly want to get into the US. As consular officials, we are the first of many lines of defense against those kinds of people. Whenever something bad happens in the US now, one of my early thoughts is "who was at the visa window, and how did they make their decision on that visa application?"

Then finally by our history, heritage, and character the US welcomes immigrants and visitors from around the world. This diversity is a tremendous source of strength for our country, and something that sets us apart from many others. We always have to apply the law fairly but with an eye towards who we are.

So, with these important and sometimes competing goals, we now have to add the element of speed. In many places around the world, non-immigrant visas are given 5 minutes or less to be determined. So, the job at the visa window comes down to "let the right ones in, keep the wrong ones out, as quickly as possible." It isn't the job for everyone. But as I continue with training, I am coming to realize more and more that it IS the job for me.



  1. Welcome to the big CA pool! You've summed it up well. I'd like to add that the fun part is that you will get to hear about the lives, jobs, family situations, salaries, desires and occasionally way-too-personal stuff from the regular people in your host country. It's great! I hope you like hearing their stories and seeing their faces as much as I do.

  2. I hope this proves to be a true adventure!

  3. Glad you are liking ConGen! I was going to name my next post pretty much the same thing....hope that's ok?