American Visa

American Visa

“0121, 0121 to 9 please…”

I sat on my seat in the cool windowless hall of the American embassy, petrified but still managing to be enthralled by my environment.

Before the danfo came to a halt the conductor jumped off indicating we could alight here. A few of us disembarked. I adjusted my polyester paisley tie, and checked that my shoulder bag was well secured.

I was at 2, Walter Carrington Crescent, The American Embassy. It was around six in the morning. The dim street lights provided barely enough illumination to discern where I was headed. Once I could make out the terrain in the shadows, I was shocked. The sun was not even up but the buzz of human and vehicular traffic of determined fellow visa seekers and opportunist vendors was intense. Morning business was already brisk with wares on display ranging from akara, to newspapers, to Nigerian flags to I love USA tee-shirts all items considered vital in the pursuit for the American dream. United States of America. ‘Visa matter’ was a profitable business for some and a full time frustration for others.

The crowd was building up, I attempted to queue up behind a lady and her son, out of nowhere, I was pushed aside. “Ah aah, take it easy man…”

But the man who pushed me was vitriolic in his retort “Me? can’t I see you or is it you to see me? A beg, go and queue at the back, you jus come, an’ you want to chance me eh?”

I glanced around in the dawning daylight and noticed the queue stretched further back.  I mumbled my apology, and made my way to stand behind the last man at the back. I was already sweating profusely. I snatched my hanky from my pocket to mop my forehead. The queue kept growing.  Most people were silent, preoccupied with their thoughts. We were a mish mash of people from all walks of life. Faces were blurred,  but  from the little I saw I conjectured some were professionals, others self employed business men and women, students, socialites in fact every hue of Nigerian you could think of was represented here.

At about 7.30am, the security man clad in grey uniform signalled to us that it was time to queue up in front of the embassy, rather than in our auxiliary file to the side of the embassy. Everyone made a mad dash to form another line at the gate, I found myself being jostled as I scrambled to worm my way to the front. It proved fruitless.

“Ol’boy, mind yourself O!” said the man beside me as he shoved me aside.

I seriously weighed the pros and cons of retaliation, but decide against it since my suit was borrowed from my good friend Bobo. In my attempt to balance my footing I find myself wedged up against a young lady who appeared to be some sort of professional. She was not amused at all “what is wrong with you? Are you blind?”“ She demanded. I quickly composed myself “Sorry, that guy pushed me.” I finally settled into my place in the queue.

A cloud of silence hung over the crowd. I was amazed to see my fellow Nigerians conducting themselves in such a civilised and orderly fashion. The security man made an announcement up front which we didn’t hear directly, but somehow, the information filtered down the queue in second-hand whispers. “He said we should have our passports and documents ready”.

I was nervous for many reasons. Actually, it was my conversation with Bobo that led me to this point.

“Man I tire” I had confided in him. We had both graduated Engineering from Ladoke Akintola University, and had been out in the job market for coming up to 4 years. I was desperate.

““Man no die, he no rotten.” Bobo responded not turning his attention from the TV.

I pulled my chair closer to him to get his attention. Bobo did not bother with the job market anymore. He was now a fulltime hustler. He bought and sold whatever he could lay his hands on and seemed to possess a deeper knowledge about life than I.

“My guy, your man dey sink O! I don try left and right for where?”

Bobo looked at me and smirked “Look, Jide, the system only favours the select few born with a silver spoon. For all others na to gatecrash O!”

“Gatecrash ke?” It appeared we were having parallel conversations

Bobo was adamant “Yes o, no hustle no castle. If you don’t hala, nothing nothing for you.”

I did not have time for riddles, so I asked him to come clean and break it down for me.

Bobo did not hesitate to marshal out his points “Skimpy! Man, Heaven helps those who help themselves. You think going from office to office to drop CV everyday is the solution, man, you are a joker…” And on he went. I finally came up with the idea of checking out, and Bobo was more than willing to help.

So here I was now, at the embassy, eavesdropping on the muted conversations of fellow applicants. Some people were carrying multiple file folders, others full briefcases bursting with documents, many had photo albums, and all manner of ‘evidence’. I felt intimidated by it all, wondering what my chances were. The security guards whom numbered about 5 at this time moved along the queue assessing us and asking us to hold out our documents. The lady I had bumped up against had only her passport and a few slips of paper; she exuded so much confidence I concluded she must be one of those people that travel to the US every month. I glanced surreptitiously behind me as I extracted my documents from my shoulder bag. Soon the queue began to move, I felt a sense of excitement never having been inside an embassy before. Despite my strong antiperspirant, my sweat glands were working overtime and my armpits were drenched in sweat.

We were ushered into the embassy in an orderly file. The pristine hall was filled with chairs arranged in rows, perhaps totalling about 300 in all. In one corner was a water cooler and coffee maker with milk and sugar. Facing our rows of seats were cubicles with bullet proof looking glass screens and 2-way microphone system. The security men on the inside were different from those outside. They seemed more American, beefy and one kin’ bigger, taller, fatter and more agile than the guys outside. They stood smartly and watched us closely.

My appointment letter was checked again, they took my biometrics and then I made my way to a seat.

“0121, to nine” the lady called from the glass cubicle. 

 

I looked at my number 0348, I was way behind. I settled into my seat willing my churning stomach to be calm.  To my left sat an elderly woman, who seemed lost and illiterate; to my right a middle aged non-descript man, it was hard to read him.

Even with the air-conditioning, I was drenched in cold sweat, tense with anxiety

“0122 to one”. A young girl probably about 16years old, likely a student about to enter ‘Uni’ walked to her interviewer.

“0123 to four”.

The earliest birds were the lucky ones, they were handed their visa slip without hassle.  I began to relax, it did not seem as frightful as I heard it was, I quietly offered up a prayer for a kind visa officer when it was my turn.

Suddenly the tempo changed. 0131 was called up .The volume of the interview seemed louder, I did not have to strain my ears to hear the dialogue, and it wasn’t just me, everyone appeared to be listening…

Visa Officer: why do you want to go to the US?
Visa seeker 0131: to visit my brother and his family
VO: Tell me about your family

VS0131 tells him in convoluted précis

VO: What do you do for a living?
VS0131: I am an officer with an Insurance company
VO: how much do you earn?
VS0131: 32,000naira per month
VO: what are your responsibilities at work?
VS0131: my duties involve…(he told him)
VO: what is the residency status of your host?
VS0131: My brother is married to a US citizen
VO: Sorry, you are not eligible for a US visa today.

That was the first rejection. It was flagrant and brutal. The VO stamped his passport and continued almost mercilessly “I am not satisfied that your application is genuine, nor have you satisfied me that you have sufficient reasons to return to Nigeria if granted a Visa”. She stamped VS0131’s passport. “Should you wish to appeal this decision please read the enclosed documents carefully before you proceed.”

It hit me! This is what people have been talking about. I forgot my growling stomach and perked up. The perplexed young man slunk away in shame and disbelief, dejectedly making his way to the exit.   I felt that it could very easily have been me. I paid closer attention to what was going on after that harsh rejection. I looked around at all the other applicants; everyone seemed to empathize with him. There were many more rejections as the day went on. I was getting despondent. It seemed to be hit and miss, try your luck; there was no rhyme or reason to the process; many were turned down even the most professional and sophisticated ones whom I had assessed as ‘sure bankers’.

One young man, no older than me, when the Visa Officer announced his refusal yelled a violent “No!” to which the Visa officer responded with a disdainful glance, advising him to compose himself or else he would order his immediate removal from the premises. The VO did not stop there. He continued his prepared remarks to the effect that “I am convinced these documents are forged, and for this reason, I am denying you a visa to the United States. You are disallowed from applying to the Embassy of the United States of America for a visa for 10years!” Then his passport was stamped. The act of stamping was so loud, it sounded like a slap to the face. The young man was devastated. 10 years!

I looked at my number, my turn was fast approaching. My heart started racing, I had seen too many decent looking people rejected; even people that appeared ‘Americana’ and affluent. Indeed, ‘visa application is an equaliser’. The hall was gradually emptying out. I could feel the panic rising in me. I reviewed my documents again and rehearsed my responses. This was a big deal for me; no one in my family was a graduate, nor had any even travelled outside Oyo state. I was rushing in where angels feared to tread. What had started as a vague intimidation, sitting here and hearing all the rejections had grown to full scale fear.

0348… 0348 to five.

I jumped up from my chair nearly knocking it over and stumbling over the lady to my left. In my haste, my documents spilled over and I bent over to gather them; no help whatsoever from any of the people around me. My documents which had been neatly arranged were now a chaotic mess. I hurriedly headed to cubicle 5. I remembered that Bobo said that I had to be confident and assertive. I smiled but it must have come out like a grimace, because when the visa officer looked at me, he frowned and then looked right through me. I attempted to break the ice:

Me: Good morning Sir.

It did not make any impact on him so I waited for the questions to begin. He flipped through some documents in his possession and looked straight into my eyes. I maintained eye contact without seeming threatening.

VO: Have you ever been to the US before?

No, I said keeping my voice low. (I have never been to the US, and I was too embarrassed for everyone in the hall to hear me announce it).

VO: why do you want to go to the US?
Me: For a 2 week holiday.( This was what Bobo told me I should say, he said  “that is the best answer, if you are not a student”. In my mind, I knew I had no intention of returning to Nigeria if I got my visa).

VO: Who is paying your fare?

Me:  Myself (Bobo told me that was the best answer)

VO: Can I see your evidence of funds?

I showed him several bank statements from UBA and GTB.
VO: How old are you?
Me: 28years old

VO: What do you do for a living?
Me: I am a Project manager for a construction company on the Island
VO: how much do you earn?
Me:55,000naira per month

VO: Can I see your evidence of your earnings… payslip?  I handed over several payslips to him.

The VO stood up, packed all the documents I had provided and went inside. My fear was at fever-pitch; I was shaking like a leaf. I had no clue what was happening behind the partition. My mouth was dry, the room was spinning, and I could feel the eyes of other prospective visa-seekers boring into my back. It may only have been 5 minutes but it seemed like an eternity.  The VO returned and stared into my eyes as though looking into my soul. He handed me back my documents.

VO: what   are your responsibilities at work?  I gave him my rehearsed spiel.

He considered my response. My heartbeat was galloping; I thought I saw him reach for the stamp from the corner of my eye.

VO: Is there anything you wish to add before I advice you of my decision?

I was confused. I did not know what decision he had come to but I prayed he will keep his voice low. It appeared my scam had been exposed.

You see, all my documents had been obtained at the notorious Oluwole district in Central Lagos. Oluwole is the den of document traffickers and forgers. Fakes produced at Oluwole were more believable than the original. It housed  a brotherhood of amorphous operators producing every local and international document under the sun.

I had long resisted the pull to go over to the crooked side but being rebuffed more times than I could count by employers, I was a desperate man. Look at me- an Engineering graduate with second class upper reduced to being a professional beggar in my own country. My conversation with Bobo was my damascene moment.

Now as I stood before the Visa officer, I resigned myself to my fate.

I knew what was coming and determined to take it like a man; I waited for it.

He was speaking again.

No stamp!

No stamp!!

No stamp!!!

He was still speaking but I was not listening.

I was stunned!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Comments

comments


63 thoughts on “American Visa” by doubleespresso (@doubleespresso)

  1. Profile photo of Casey Imafidon
    Casey Imafidon (@casey): Junior Writer - 1587 pts

    okay, its the usual thing we all know that. good one

    1. Profile photo of doubleespresso
      doubleespresso (@doubleespresso): Scribe - 14948 pts

      Thanks @Casey for stopping by.

  2. Profile photo of howyoudey
    howyoudey (@howyoudey): Head Wordsmith - 98138 pts

    The first lines threw me off. I thought that he was already inside the building. The story captured the atmosphere of the setting, and then slowly drew in the reader. Taut. Gave me an insight into the visa process. Not pretty. The visa process, that is. I was not clear about the ending. Did he get it or not?

    1. Profile photo of doubleespresso
      doubleespresso (@doubleespresso): Scribe - 14948 pts

      Glad you liked the story, I believe @TO helped translate the outcome, appreciate your comments.

  3. Profile photo of Tola Odejayi
    Tola Odejayi (@TolaO): Wordsmith - 37255 pts

    Very brutal process. You did such a great job of building the tension that I was scared to read the end to find out what happened. Well done, sir!

    Howyoudey, I think he got the visa, because a stamp indicated that the visa had been denied (as can be seen by previous accounts of rejections in the story).

    1. Profile photo of doubleespresso
      doubleespresso (@doubleespresso): Scribe - 14948 pts

      Thanks @TO, always glad to read your insightful comments. Please hit hard where necessary.

  4. Profile photo of Kukogho Iruesiri Samson
    Kukogho Iruesiri Samson (@xikay): Head Wordsmith - 50073 pts

    hmmm. quite interesting. got me hooked.

    1. Profile photo of doubleespresso
      doubleespresso (@doubleespresso): Scribe - 14948 pts

      @xikay, thanks for stopping by, glad you liked the story.

  5. Profile photo of ARUKAINO
    ARUKAINO (@ambassador1): Beginner - 508 pts

    Your compelling narrative made a seemingly familiar story all the more interesting. I sure enjoyed it. And the ending was gbam! And after putting your readers through such drama about getting a US visa, you owe each one a drink. Double expresso pls :-) Good job.

    1. Profile photo of doubleespresso
      doubleespresso (@doubleespresso): Scribe - 14948 pts

      Yep! your comment too na gbam. When we see, drinks are on me (lol). Thanks for your comments.

  6. Profile photo of sambright
    sambright (@sambrightomo): Head Wordsmith - 94730 pts

    simply a narrative exposition of the ordeals of getting An American visa.good one ……

    1. Profile photo of doubleespresso
      doubleespresso (@doubleespresso): Scribe - 14948 pts

      Thanks @sambright, appreciate your stopping by.

  7. Profile photo of Gboyega Otolorin
    Gboyega Otolorin (@guywriterer): Head Wordsmith - 49613 pts

    This was magnificent! The tension was there, the suspense was there, I was completely emotionally invested in the outcome.. Good job man, good job!
    Those US visa ppl r cold men. Stone cold.

    1. Profile photo of doubleespresso
      doubleespresso (@doubleespresso): Scribe - 14948 pts

      @Gboyega Otolorin, thanks for your comments. I am glad you liked the story. Thanks again.

  8. Profile photo of Raymond
    Raymond (@raymond): Head Wordsmith - 47658 pts

    I liked the tension in this…Nice…

    1. Profile photo of doubleespresso
      doubleespresso (@doubleespresso): Scribe - 14948 pts

      Thanks @Raymond.

  9. Profile photo of Stan
    Stan (@stan): Newbie - 230 pts

    Nice exposition. Somehow,i expected a twist sha, to differentiate it from the normal visa experience. In all,a gud one.

    1. Profile photo of doubleespresso
      doubleespresso (@doubleespresso): Scribe - 14948 pts

      Thanks @Stan for stopping over.

  10. Profile photo of Chetachi
    Chetachi (@chetachi): Writer - 8091 pts

    Good job! I enjoyed the build up of the story. Interesting on the Embassy.

    1. Profile photo of doubleespresso
      doubleespresso (@doubleespresso): Scribe - 14948 pts

      Thanks for your comments @chetachi. Appreciate your comments.

  11. Profile photo of Scopeman
    Scopeman (@scopeman60): Head Wordsmith - 50527 pts

    at least he got the visa… Well done.

    1. Profile photo of doubleespresso
      doubleespresso (@doubleespresso): Scribe - 14948 pts

      @Scopeman, it could have gone either way, (lol).

  12. Profile photo of empress sewande
    empress sewande (@empresewande): Beginner - 618 pts

    okay i enjoyed it.

    1. Profile photo of doubleespresso
      doubleespresso (@doubleespresso): Scribe - 14948 pts

      Thanks @empress sewande, glad you enjoyed it.

  13. Profile photo of Igwe
    Igwe (@igweaj): Scribe - 10205 pts

    I enjoyed this piece. I like the structure and build up of the story and also the way the ending was left to the reader’s imagination. Welldone.

    1. Profile photo of doubleespresso
      doubleespresso (@doubleespresso): Scribe - 14948 pts

      Thanks @Igwe. Thanks for your comments and analysis.

  14. Profile photo of gladys aghete
    gladys aghete (@gladysaghete): Newbie - 45 pts

    Pretty good from start to finish. Great piece.

    1. Profile photo of doubleespresso
      doubleespresso (@doubleespresso): Scribe - 14948 pts

      @gladys aghete thanks for stopping by.

  15. Profile photo of jeff unaegbu
    jeff unaegbu (@jeffunaegbu): Junior Writer - 3558 pts

    Very educating story here. The beginning has a little error of tense called the negation of the past perfect tense, this is why readers are led to think the MC is already within the hall, only to find without warning that they are also to see where he came from. The Intro which you began with, I know, was there for the effect of captivating the reader’s mind, showing that you are a good suspense-maker.
    Therefore, whenever a writer wants to go to a time further in the past than the “past” that has been shown already, he uses at least one “HAD”. That rule is never broken. And that verb is powerful.

    All in all, a very well-plotted story.

    1. Profile photo of doubleespresso
      doubleespresso (@doubleespresso): Scribe - 14948 pts

      @jeff unaegbu, thank you for your detailed comments. Much appreciated and well noted.

  16. Profile photo of Kiah
    Kiah (@kiah): Head Wordsmith - 52221 pts

    i could feel the fear off this guy…very expressive work! well done!!!

    1. Profile photo of doubleespresso
      doubleespresso (@doubleespresso): Scribe - 14948 pts

      @Kiah that’s high praise, I appreciate O!

  17. Profile photo of Jefsaraurmax
    Jefsaraurmax (@jefsaraurmax): Scribe - 13702 pts

    OMG! Total flashback for me! :0) Great story doubleespresso!

    1. Profile photo of doubleespresso
      doubleespresso (@doubleespresso): Scribe - 14948 pts

      @jefsaraurmax we will overcome, thanks for reading!

  18. Profile photo of Da Writing Engineer
    Da Writing Engineer (@banky): Wordsmith - 32922 pts

    Doubleespresso,
    Good piece. You have a story and you told it in a moving narrative. However, in the followign sentences, I do not think ‘up’ is really needed:
    I quietly offered (up) a prayer for
    The crowd was building (up), I attempted to queue (up) behind
    All in all, the pace was perfect but the descriptions could be more ‘active’.
    And I believe, he got the visa…

    1. Profile photo of doubleespresso
      doubleespresso (@doubleespresso): Scribe - 14948 pts

      Maybe I have an ‘up’ fetish. I see your point but do you think the ‘up’ is a definite no no or an either way but best not? A beg help me…

  19. Profile photo of Da Writing Engineer
    Da Writing Engineer (@banky): Wordsmith - 32922 pts

    In all three cases, its a no-no. however, in the third case, you should re-write as: I attempted to join the queue. That’s technically a better sentence…

  20. Profile photo of doubleespresso
    doubleespresso (@doubleespresso): Scribe - 14948 pts

    Certainly that reads better…I appreciate your input…cheers man!

  21. Profile photo of serendipity
    serendipity (@serendipity): Newbie - 40 pts

    Very realistic! those people are hard!

    1. Profile photo of doubleespresso
      doubleespresso (@doubleespresso): Scribe - 14948 pts

      Thanks for enjoying.

  22. Profile photo of pacesetter
    pacesetter (@pacesetter): Newbie - 42 pts

    A realistic telling of the wicked visa experience.

    1. Profile photo of doubleespresso
      doubleespresso (@doubleespresso): Scribe - 14948 pts

      Thanks for stopping by.

  23. Profile photo of Lade
    Lade (@Lade-A): Scribe - 12560 pts

    The ending was kind of expected to me but you did an amazing job of building up the story.

    1. Profile photo of doubleespresso
      doubleespresso (@doubleespresso): Scribe - 14948 pts

      @Lade, wish I had a prize for guessing the end. I actually did not know how it will end till I got there, I am glad you enjoyed reading.

  24. Profile photo of africanrose
    africanrose (@africanrose): Newbie - 80 pts

    Best story I have read on this site in a longtime. I will re-read and read and recommend! Excellent work @Doubleespresso.

    1. Profile photo of doubleespresso
      doubleespresso (@doubleespresso): Scribe - 14948 pts

      Thanks @Africanrose

  25. Profile photo of Uche Okonkwo
    Uche Okonkwo (@Uche): Writer - 8475 pts

    I like the tension in the story, and that nice little cliffhanger. Well written.

    1. Profile photo of doubleespresso
      doubleespresso (@doubleespresso): Scribe - 14948 pts

      Thanks so much for your comments

  26. Profile photo of Olusola O. Muhammad
    Olusola O. Muhammad (@quint2black): Newbie - 314 pts

    Brilliant piece of writing. Had me gripped till the end.

    1. Profile photo of doubleespresso
      doubleespresso (@doubleespresso): Scribe - 14948 pts

      Thanks, glad you appreciate.

  27. Profile photo of kingfisher
    kingfisher (@augustus2011): Newbie - 140 pts

    Bravo! Very good effort; a quite enjoyable story. Strong on technical quality. Well done, doubleespresso!

    1. Profile photo of doubleespresso
      doubleespresso (@doubleespresso): Scribe - 14948 pts

      High praise. Glad you enjoyed

  28. Profile photo of Seun-Odukoya
    Seun-Odukoya (@Seun-Odukoya): Head Wordsmith - 103815 pts

    What ended the story o? The last thing I read is ‘I was stunned!’ Na the end be that?

    Well done coffee lover…the story na trips. Well cooked trips.

    Bless.

    1. Profile photo of doubleespresso
      doubleespresso (@doubleespresso): Scribe - 14948 pts

      @seun-odukoya, thanks for reading and enjoying.

  29. Profile photo of Idoko
    Idoko (@julemyles): Senior Scribe - 28510 pts

    Yeah… You really have a great story, here…

  30. Profile photo of irenecarew-bako
    irenecarew-bako (@irenecarewbako): Writer - 6482 pts

    Ditto everyone o! So wetin you bring come back abi you still dey overs? Brilliant piece, well done.

  31. Profile photo of morounmubo
    morounmubo (@morounmubo2011): Newbie - 332 pts

    Well done… very interesting story…

  32. Profile photo of Amurawaiye Adeyinka
    Amurawaiye Adeyinka (@adeyinkacu): Junior Writer - 3757 pts

    What I just don’t get is if he got the visa? Except that, nice story. very nice. If it was smoother it could have been nicer. There were times you needed to have used simpler words.

  33. Profile photo of shomyk
    shomyk (@shomyk): Writer - 6487 pts

    Very novel piece. I love it

  34. Profile photo of jonnysnow
    jonnysnow (@jonnysnow): Junior Writer - 2720 pts

    Splendid!!!!!

  35. Profile photo of Chris Teck O
    Chris Teck O (@offero): Beginner - 857 pts

    @doubleespresso
    This story has been posted sometime last yr on this site. I can remember reading this. The narrator was granted the visa

  36. Profile photo of topazo
    topazo (@topazo): Head Wordsmith - 59191 pts

    Gripping….i love it!

  37. Profile photo of Olan
    Olan (@Olan): Scribe - 15399 pts

    so vivid….kudos

Leave a Reply