Open Letter to the U.S. Embassy Kampala

21 09 2010

Ugandans have always had a very bad habit of NOT complaining. Today, I want to give them hope that we can also speak out and complain! Everybody else will complain when they are being treated unfairly but Ugandans. This is probably because the country’s freedom of speech and democracy is still uncertain. So, people will always be reluctant to complain even when they have to.

I am one of the 18 people from all around the world who won fully paid scholarships in Washington D.C. to participate in the Evoke Summit starting September 27th – 30th courtesy of the World Bank to share their vision of the future on different topics.

Because I am a Ugandan, I needed a non-immigrant visa to the U.S. I applied for the visa through the U.S. Embassy Kampala, Uganda using their online application system on the July 23rd, 2010 and had to schedule an appointment through the online system. The earliest open appointment I found was on September 7th, 2010; 7.40Am – so I scheduled that one and got a confirmation.

On September 7th, I went to the U.S. Embassy. I paid $140 non-refundable visa fee for the Business class visa. 40 minutes later they called me in the small room for the interview. The Consular Assistant (interviewer) is behind the glass and she starts politely by asking my name,

Then three more question followed:

1. What are you going to do in the United States?

I am going to the U.S to participate in the “Evoke Summit” (September 27th – 30th) – I got a scholarship from the World Bank to share my vision for the future at the EVOKE Summit in Washington DC.

2. What is your job?

Currently I am a part-time Volunteer – Technical Support Program at Women of Uganda Network. And also a Freelance Consultant, Social Media and use of New Media for Advocacy and Development.

When I answered this, she responded in a very rude tone – “first you said you are a volunteer, now you are saying you are a consultant”!

3. Can I have your invitation letter?

I provided the invitation letter and the Consular Assistant kept a copy of my invitation letter from the World Bank.

She gazed at the letter for about 10 seconds. She stood up and said, “I am sorry sir, I cannot issue you a visa today. For details read that letter”. She said this as passed on my passport and she walked away from the window.

The letter she gave me looked like a photocopy. It was addressed to “Dear Applicant”

The letter stated that “We regret to inform you that you have been found ineligible for a nonimmigrant visa based on section 214(b) of the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act (INA)….”

In the letter, there was no specific reason to justify the reason for the denial and it didn’t explain the circumstances under which I am ineligible for the U.S. visa.

I called the U.S. Embassy Kampala operator a couple of hours later to inquire on what to do next. The operator advised that I reapply through the online system and reschedule a new appointment.

On September 8th, I wrote this email to the Consular U.S. Embassy Kampala to complain and this is the feedback I got from the Consular Section on September 20th (12days later).

Meanwhile the World Bank offices in Washington D.C. and Kampala Uganda were very helpful in terms of emailing the U.S. Embassy in Kampala to submit more documents and evidence to support my application.  However, the U.S. Embassy must have ignored all this.

On September 15th, I reapplied for the visa and scheduled a fresh appointment for September 21st , 2010 (7.40Am). I got a confirmation from the system and printed it out.

To my disappointment, when I went to the U.S. Embassy this morning (September 21st), my name was NOT on the list of applicants expected; hence I was denied access to the U.S. Embassy! I provided evidence for my appointment but the embassy official who was crosschecking said he was unable to assist me. If my appointment was canceled for any reason, I think I deserved a call and explanation – but all I got was “sorry sir, you are not on the list!” When I talked to another Embassy officer at the reception over my name not being on the appointment list for the confirmed day, he said ‘ekyo si kizibu kyange’  translated as (“that’s not my problem….”). Now this gentleman is a Ugandan!  And its such a shame he does not know how to treat a fellow Ugandan! – It’s a shame.

My complaint is not the visa denial, but I think there is no transparency in the way my issue was handled.

I have written my final

My questions/ conclusion:

1.       Is the U.S. Embassy Kampala serving Ugandans or here on a diplomatic mission to serve just the U.S citizen here? (no offense my American friends).

2.       What shows that I am ineligible for the U.S. visa?

3.       Where is the receipt for the $140 non-refundable visa fee I paid on the September 7th? – I asked this question in my email complaint to the Consular. And in the response from the Consular Section 12days later, nothing was said regarding the receipt issue.

4.       What happened to my appointment? I think the U.S. Embassy Kampala has the responsibility to call applicants to inform them that their appointment was canceled or whatever happened to it. I deserve and explanation here!

5.       How many Ugandans have similar cases and they are keeping quiet? Of course there must be many from other parts of the world too.

6.       Is this the same way people are treated everyday when they go to other embassies? Or is it just the U.S. Embassy?

7.       Whats “e-mail” for if I have to wait for 12days to get feedback from the U.S. Embassy Kampala? E-mail is becoming one of the quickest modes of communication around the world. And its such a shame that the U.S. Embassy Kampala is still struggling to deliver timely information over email and then they encourage use of their online application platform.

Just to give you a brief picture of what non-immigrants from the U.S. do when they want to travel to Uganda, they pack their bags, board a plane and come to Uganda. At Entebbe international airport, they pay a couple of dollars for the temporally visa. And that’s it! You already know what a Ugandan has to go through to travel to the United States!

My fellow Ugandan LEARN to SPEAK OUT!

Comparing U.S. Embassy Kampala to U.S. Embassy Nairobi

  • U.S. Embassy Kampala serves applicants on ONLY 2 days a week – Tuesday and Thursday. U.S.Embassy Nairobi works Monday – Thursday.
  • U.S. Embassy Kampala needs up to 5 working days to respond to an email (in my case it was 12days). U.S.Embassy Nairobi will respond in 2 working days.

When I read the information on the two websites, the U.S. Embassy Nairobi seems to be more transparent. – Thats my opinion.

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