Thursday, December 9, 2010

A typical day

Whenever someone tells me what they do for work, my next question is almost always, "What does that mean?"  If someone is "relocation coordinator" in Dubai (I met someone with that title yesterday), it means that they help all of the expats who work for the large corporations settle in and get housing, utilities, licenses, etc.  I still have no idea what a project manager does, despite the fact that I have known several.  They can never adequately explain it.

So, what does a Vice-Consul do?  Every post is unique and Belmopan is smaller than most (or all) posts.  Because of this, I am not just a lowly vice-Consul, I am also the Visas Chief.  This means that I have more things to do than just hundreds of Non-Immigrant Visa interviews.

A typical day starts at 645 when I get up.  I am usually showered and dressed by 715, so I eat breakfast and surf the internet until about 755.  Then, I leave for work.  I arrive at 8.  (Yes, I have a five minute commute).  Generally, I will spend a half-hour to 45 minutes checking e-mail and catching up with anything left over from the afternoon before.

Sometime between 830 and 930 (depending on how busy we are), I will start NIV interviews.  During our slow season (now!), we have between 20-35 interviews.  During the busy season, we will have between 50 and 70 per day.  For each interview, I have to review their application and file, take their fingerprings, ask them some questions, take notes, and then determine whether or not they qualify for the visa.  I try for about 5 minutes per interview.  This is slower than some of the visa mill posts, but still fast enough to keep people moving.  Depending on the volume of cases, I will finish interviewing between 11 and 2. 

Generally, I will take my lunch break at noon or when I finish interviewing.  I go home for lunch about half the time and eat at our cafeteria the other half.  Occassionally, I will go out for lunch to one of the few restaurants in town.  Lunch is an hour and I am generally back at my desk by 1.  I then spend between a 30 minutes to an hour catching up on all the e-mails that were sent while I was interviewing.

In the afternoon, I will usually either do Immigrant Visas (on Mondays and Wednesdays) or catch up with the backlog of all the other work I have going on.  Immigrant visas are a completely different beast than NIVs because there is a lot more paperwork and the people are obviously moving to the US permanently.  These take a lot longer than NIVs - about 30 minutes per case.  Longer if there are multiple applicants.

I generally finish between 3-4 and spend the rest of the day catching up with cases.  Anyone who does not have all their information at the interview needs to have the case reviewed when everything is available.  I respond to Congressional inquiries.  As I said before, I have to do a lot of other things that are outside the normal junior officer's role.  I have to write performance reports for the local staff.  I have to work on all of the weird visa cases - the ones Post only sees once or twice a year.  I am in charge of the Visa section of the website.  I have been working on establishing DNA testing procedures.  I am one of three board members on the newly created Commissary.  I will be writing the "Post of the Month" report for Belmopan in State Magazine.  I am doing less fraud now that our new Vice-Consul is here.

I work to fit all of these things in to the late afternoons and Fridays.  I leave for work around 5 and am usually home by 505.  I will usually relax for an hour or two and then go to the Pig and Parrot or the Tuesday Tumble or one of my friend's house.  Generally, I head to bead around 11, read for a bit and am asleep by midnight.

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