• Friday, July 19, 2024
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BusinessDay

What qualifies you for a US visa?

I am sixteen years old and recently graduated from Olashore International School, with a plan to go to Purdue University in the United States where I am proud to have been accepted to study Engineering.

I have completed the advising phase, and I have been assigned a room and roommates. I have even gotten my class schedule and paid for orientation.

The final thing that I needed to complete this process was my student visa, and that was where this institution (the US Consulate in Lagos, Nigeria) decided to throw all my effort away.

Not one student my age was accepted during the period of time I was in that interview room. Not one

I would like to ask the general public: as a student of any educational institution anywhere in the world, what is it that truly qualifies you as outstanding?

Is it a 4 out of 4 CGPA, or being the valedictorian from pre-school up until high-school? Is it participating in and leading choirs, orchestras, band brigades, cultural dance troupes, chapel praise teams and building younger ones in any of these fields?

Is it being in the school play, or representing and winning quiz competitions for your school in the larger world? Or wait, maybe it could be setting up programs through which you mentor both younger students in your school and in other schools; is that it?

Is it qualifying for your school basketball team from your freshman year and playing with them until you graduate? Is it participating in leadership projects to educate the public about plastic pollution?

Is it coming best in nearly every subject you’ve done since year 7? Is it winning the COBIS awards two times in a row? How about 6As in six subjects in IGCSEs, or a 1520 in the SAT, or an 8.5 in IELTS? Should we go local by adding a 339 in JAMB to the list?

Although I do believe that JAMB has some questions to answer regarding my 66 in English (a score I have never come close to before) as opposed to a 95, did I need to get the best score in Nigeria to be considered worthy?

The real funny thing here is that these stats that you see above seem unnecessary, don’t they?

What is even funnier is the fact that I have done every single thing I mentioned here and more. I have sacrificed time and energy throughout my life to accomplish what I have written a bit here. Am I prideful for showing it openly? Maybe. Am I hurt that my integrity is being questioned and denied? Definitely.

As a person, I have worked for so long to be the best in every field of endeavour I’ve remotely been involved in. My parents have worked even harder to ensure that my education up until this level has been nothing less than excellent and I owe them the world for that.

Do you then, as an institution whose fundamental goal is to establish meaningful ties between the two countries, not see that you stand in my path to even greater and more impactful achievements?

Is that the plan – to curtail every exceptional person that comes your way? Why then would you act otherwise by holding the interviews in the first place?

You could just close off the entire Nigerian student admittance from every school in the US and the message would be crystal clear.

If you claim that the reason I was denied was not on the grounds of my lack of excellence but based on a discouraging interview, then what measure did you put in place for undergraduate students to make that process even slightly palatable?

Every student my age I observed that went into that interview room with me was denied.

I believe that if the process had not been so arduous, we would have had better interviews. I personally am sure that I would have had a much better interview under more bearable circumstances.

My appointment was scheduled for 9:15 AM and I did my interview after noon. I had not had breakfast because I had to leave home very early to beat the traffic that would have impaired me otherwise.

The applicants stood for the entire waiting process in the interview room with nothing to support us except the consistent hearing of the words: “You do not qualify for this visa at this time.”

How are students fresh out of secondary school with high hopes for the future in university supposed to be mentally stable enough to have a good interview after hearing that countless times while your legs are killing you from waiting in line?

Not one student my age was accepted during the period of time I was in that interview room. Not one.

Financial documents and bank statements are not records that minors are traditionally privy to, even when the owners are their parents for security reasons.

This is well understood by any rational member of society. For this reason, the guardians of the minors are allowed to be present for any clarifications during the interview.

I even know someone my age whose mother was allowed to be present for reasons like this.

However, they kept my own mother at the gate, just because I was taller than her. ‘He is a big boy, look at how you are embarrassing him,’ was what the people letting in applicants to the interview room said as they placed security guards at the entrance to prevent my mother from following me in.

I believe that if she were present she would have been able to give better clarification on our finances, especially as the interviewer did not bother to check the bank statements that I had provided.

All my mother asked was that they treated our case fairly by letting her in whilst my father was in the car waiting. They did not.

Due to this, 16 years of academic excellence, extracurricular activity and personal development are now somewhat rendered futile as I am left to start my application to other universities all over again in hope of getting placement, when I already do have placement that God knows I have rightfully earned.

My parents are able to fund my education from beginning to end. They always have been and they have worked very hard to be able to do so over the years.

The interviewer gave me the impression that I had come there to lie about my intentions of going to the United States.

Then again, maybe it is not the fault of the US Embassy. Maybe it is the reputation that some Nigerians have built for themselves.

We are powerful people, but some are dangerous all the same. Maybe the US government is wary of their disruptive tendencies, and they have decided that those tendencies outweigh the positive contributions of others to their economy, a circumstance of which I am now a victim.

It is no news anymore that most Nigerians are running away from Nigeria, and for good reason.

The US Embassy cannot ‘just believe’ that I am not part of these people that plan to leave the country to never return. That is why they said in their denial letter that I have not shown intent to come back, even after I clearly said so during my interview.

In their letter, they listed ties such as ‘professional’, ‘work’, ‘school’, ‘family’, or ‘social links to a foreign country’.

In Nigeria, 16-year-olds are not legally allowed or required to work in any established organisation, and I cannot even be a professional in the first place without a professional degree from a higher institution.

Therefore, the only ties that actually apply to my circumstances are school and family.

I have attended secondary school for the last six years at Olashore International School in Osun state here in Nigeria, which the interviewer would have known if she bothered to look at my testimonial that I came with.

That is my highest level of certification as of today, so what school ties do they refer to? My father, mother and only brother live in Nigeria.

My brother currently attends school in Nigeria. My parents have both their businesses in Nigeria. We are all Nigerians and our home is here. Is a 16-year-old expected to be married or to have children at this age? If not, then what defines family ties and what do they mean by social links?

There are a plethora of challenges that we face in Nigeria which require highly innovative thinking.

Furthermore, the standard of education here is unfortunately not high enough to fix those challenges. This is why we need our best minds to go out into the world and learn from experts, so that they can bring that expertise and apply it here to fix these problems.

I am going to study engineering because there are so many infrastructure gaps that need to be bridged.

I have a responsibility to myself and everyone else in this country to use the gifts that I am blessed with to solve some of these problems.

If I am hindered by the lack of quality education, I cannot possibly give back to my country. That is a scenario I plan to avoid at all costs.

I took keen interest in a young girl at the interview because for the three-hour long process, her posture was perfect, she kept composure and did not doze off, unlike myself and the many other adults that were present.

Read also: Rwanda waives entry visas for Nigerians, commonwealth countries

Her interview seemed very brilliant and better than anyone that had spoken before her in my opinion. She was confident, spoke impressively fluently, and seemed to have verified the reason behind every answer she gave. I must say I was in awe.

And, she was an undergraduate like myself. She told a story of why she wanted to study nursing that lured me out of my own dormant waiting state. I was genuinely happy for her – that she was able to keep herself completely intact after what I considered a tedious process of standing long hours in the queue.

I was clapping and nodding as she rounded up her final answer and the interviewer went quiet to start typing.

I was already mouthing the word ‘congratulations’ and raising a thumbs-up when I heard the exact same thing I would be told in a few minutes: “Unfortunately, you do not qualify for this visa at this time.”

So, everyone, if being an all-round, hardworking scholar like myself since birth or being a marvel like the girl I observed does not count worthy for the prestigious F-1 student visa to the United States of America, then please tell me, what qualifies you?