Diversity visa bleg

A good friend of mine in Liberia has won the diversity visa. He’s turned to me for advice, but I fear I have little to offer. I thought I’d turn to my best resource: this audience.

He’s a former combatant–a foot soldier in Charles Taylor’s group in the early nineties. After a year or two he was injured, left the group, and started an social work NGO to rehabilitate former combatants and street youth. His work was so innovative and inspiring, we’re running a randomized control trial of the program.

To get the visa, it seems he has to do four things:

  1. Pass a consular interview
  2. Find someone to host him and his wife for the first few months
  3. Find a source of temporary financial support, until
  4. He can get a job

I can help on 3, but feel feel quite clueless on 1,2 and 4. Questions that occur:

  • Is being a rebel combatant fifteen years ago going to sink his chances?
  • Can letters of support help in an interview? (Someone out there has to have been a consular officer)
  • Any advice on organizations that help new arrivals integrate and find jobs

Apologies for the bleg. Any and all advice welcome.

9 thoughts on “Diversity visa bleg

  1. I don’t know much about DVs, but a friend and I spent the better part of a year trying to help a young Liberian man come to the US for university. My congressmen, Rep. John Tierney, wrote a personal letter to the consular officer supporting the visa application, but the application was still rejected. This experience, combined with other unsuccessful attempts to write letters of support for visa applications, lead me to support Alanna’s comment.

  2. Congratulations to you friend on winning the lottery! S/he is lucky to have some like to help. On the application process and what will be required, the Monrovian Consulate website at http://monrovia.usembassy.gov/dv.html gives some guidance. On the issue of being a rebel combatant in the past, you may want to email the consulate to ask them what information your friend should provide. They have dealt with this issue before and most officers understand how unnerving the visa process is for applicants. Though they will not be able to make a binding determination based on a hypothethical (“I have a friend who won the DV lottery who has this in his background…Would that exclude my friend from from receiving a visa or being admitted? What should my friend provide to overcome any presumption that may come with this background?”). The consulate may be able to give you some insight. Winning the under the Diversity Lottery program does not provide any unique waivers that aren’t available, but it doesn’t take any away either. Also, there are also a number of African and Liberian assistance programs in the U.S. They may be able to provide so guidance too. Thousands of Liberians have benefited from DV, so it is entirely possibly that could make it to the U.S. With millions of people applying for 50,000 available DV slots every year, winning is so incredibly lucky. May your friend’s luck hold out through the process. An attorney for immigration cases is never a bad idea. You can see if an attorney is a member of the voluntary immigration bar association the American Immigration Lawyers Association (www.aila.org). Membership in this organization doesn’t guarantee that the person is a great lawyer, but off some screening to make sure someone is licensed to practice law. Good luck!

  3. Surprised to hear a letter of support won’t help. There is a specific form that needs to be filled for this, in which the US person agrees to support you financially (ie to keep you off benefits if you cannot find/lose a job). It’s an Affidavit of Support and the details of the correct form are within the DV packet.

    Queens Public Library offers a great deal of support to New Americans (that’s the name of the programme) including relocation advice, language and culture classes, and immigration resources.

    I can’t help on the question about being a rebel combatant. If he can afford it, your friend should find a lawyer – the first form he filled in as a winner would have asked about this (crimes of moral turpitude, etc). Everything on those forms must match the interview – no changing your mind between winning and now.

    I was a DV winner this year, and I decided not to go through with the consular interview at the last minute. No jobs in my field in the US, and I had the luxury of being able to choose to stay where I am in the UK. The process is extremely nervewracking, and expensive when you count the cost of savings required, medical tests, police checks and so on. I wish your friend the very best, the interview won’t be easy and every bit of paper must be in order, but if you pass it you are well on your way. Further hurdles await at the port of entry. Definitely advise him to take a practice interview if he can.

  4. IRIS (Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services) is an organization doing really wonderful work with new immigrants in New Haven. They offer resettlement services, including housing and furniture, help enroll children in local schools, provide job training and assistance, accompany families to their doctor appointments, provide translation services, and offer daily English classes. Their website is http://www.irisct.org and I am sure they could point you to organizations doing similar work in other cities. Best of luck to your friend.

  5. ‘His work was so innovative and inspiring, we’re running a randomized control trial of the program.’

    LOL, now that’s some reward!!!

    (sorry, not a very constructive post, but can’t offer any advice as a European.)

  6. Not sure if it will help, but I know that Kimmie Weeks, a Liberian national, and his organization, Youth Action International, have done a lot of work on these issues. Maybe worth contacting him and their organization for help.

  7. I have never been a consular officer, but I know a lot of them. They assume all letters of support are lies. They doesn’t mean they will do any damage, but they are unlikely to help much.

  8. Is this a visa for the United States? If so, he might want to consider talking to the local branch of the International Rescue Committee — they work with cases like your friend’s and prepare them for interviews/hosting situations.