Interviewing an E2 visa consular officer: Anna Kerner Andersson – part 2
Based on Anna Kerner Andersson’s experience as a consular officer, numbers are really important on an E2 visa application. Let’s keep talking about her experience and sharing some tips to future E2 visa investors.
Angie Rupert: That’s a really good tip I think. It is something that I tell my clients – something that you just repeated and might be worth reiterating – put yourself in the officer’s position, right? They don’t know you, they don’t they may know nothing about this business, if they’ve only had a couple of minutes to review it or if they’re reading off someone else’s notes. Be prepared to talk about your business in a way that can be approved or approvable and makes sense to them. Because, and you may get this as well: I get a lot of people who ask … I’ll say “OK, you need a substantial amount… ‘OK, well what if I only invest this now? Well, what if I only do this….’” Honestly there’s very little written about the exact amount, the exact way that it must be done or this or that.
But, you need to show someone who doesn’t know you at all but, may not know anything about your business, in 5 minutes or less why it meets all the requirements. So, do you want to kind of do it on the base level: this could work if you consular officer are in a great mood and it all worked? Or do you want to be on the “Oh this is clear. Let’s just approve it and move on. I’ve got tons of other people to get through today,” right?
Anna Kerner Andersson: Right, exactly. The other thing that kind of, I don’t want to say irritates officers, but the other thing that is difficult for officers to approve is if the applicant is kind of hedging their bets, right?
I run into that my own practice, you know like “Oh we’ll invest this if we get the E2 visa approved,” right? But, that’s just unfortunately, that’s not how the process works.
Angie Rupert: Oh Anna. Yes, yes! Because what I tell people is this is a risk-based visa, I mean, it’s in the regs, right? It’s a risk-based visa – the more you have at risk the higher your odds of approval. That’s what I think. What do you think?
Anna Kerner Andersson: Yeah, I agree with that 100%, absolutely. If their risk isn’t there the officer is not… That’s one of those boxes they have to tick, and if it’s not there, that’s definitely a reason for refusal because, they’ve got to be able to take that box.
Angie Rupert: Yes, and I love that and one thing you said that I really love is that the officers have to justify their approvals so, make it easy for them. Make it easy to say yes!
Because, it sounds like what you’re telling me is you’re kind of randomly selected like “oh you approved 20 people today. Let’s take three of them and take a look at it.” But it’s like, it all makes sense, right? That it’s easy for that officer’s supervisor to go “Oh yeah, of course I get it, got it, no problem, good.”
Anna Kerner Andersson: Yeah, exactly. That’s for consistency purposes, right? They want to make sure the officer isn’t having 100% refusals or having in all the other way around – having 100% approvals. But still, you as the applicant, you want to be on that approval side so, you’re going to have to be able to give the officer information to justify that decision.
Angie Rupert: Yeah, and I love that because it’s a… I always say an “educated person standard.” It’s not a clear and convincing, it’s not a legal standard. It’s like, does this make sense? I don’t know, you tell me, I’m going to look at it for five minutes so, this makes sense to me or does it seem like “Wait! What is this? Who are these people? What’s happening here? I don’t understand that.” Too many questions are always bad. I just want them to be able to look at it in a second go “Oh! I get it. Alright, well, we’ll ask a couple of softballs here and move on.”
Anna Kerner Andersson: Exactly, the more the officer understands what’s going on the better your chances are of an approval. I always say you want to make it easy for the officer, right? So, if they’ve got to ask just basic questions to understand even what’s going on that right, that’s a bad sign.
You want to make it very tied up in a nice package with a beautiful bowl for the officer to be like “OK I get it. This is what they’re doing, and this is how they’re going to be successful. It sounds to me that they’ve got ten years of experience doing this or they’re serial entrepreneur. Why wouldn’t they be successful? Why wouldn’t I give them a five-year visa.” That’s what you want the officer to come out of, maybe not looking at the materials, because they may not have looked at the materials and that’s why the interview is so important. That’s what you want them to come out of it with after they talked to you.
Again, these interviews are short. So, you only have maybe five minutes to make your entire case, but officers are also trained a lot. There’s a lot of emphasis in the six weeks training that they get before they go to post, about like mannerisms and professionalism and dress code, all of that. They’re trained to look at the person in front of them and see “Is this person capable of running a multi-million-dollar business or a successful business?” All of that plays a role in the officer’s decision, unfortunately.
It’s all about how you conduct yourself not just your verbal responses but mannerisms, eye contact, all of that is taken into consideration. So, you really do have to be prepared and present yourself really well in that small period of time which, is kind of an art, but that’s the process.
Angie Rupert: Yes, I love that you use that word art because I feel the same way about putting the applications together. You just kind of get a feeling or a vibe about like “Hmm, we should really emphasize this and maybe not point this out as much.” You know, that type of thing, and it sounds like that as a consular officer you have kind of a similar thing, right?
Interesting that you mention the mannerisms… Again, I tell my clients just pretend like it’s a job interview that you’re on the happy side of, they wanted us ensure things… What would you say about the mannerisms? You said dress, right? Like, tank tops and cut offs, we’re not looking for that. At the same time you don’t need a tux with tails.
What kind of thing would you tell them about this dress and mannerisms? That type of stuff. where they can just walk up and it’s already kind of like “Oh, ok this person looks accurate for what they’re kind of trying to do,” or “I get a good feeling about this person.” What are some things that the consular officer is looking for? Some things that the client can do to kind of just put themselves on a good path just with the mannerisms and looks?
Anna Kerner Andersson: Yeah, I mean it just goes back to the whole story has to make sense. So, if the application package says that you’ve got you know 20 years of business experience, I’m going to expect to see someone that looks professional, looks like a business executive in front of me right? I mean so, business casual. It doesn’t have to be a full five-piece suit, but it should appear that you are who you say you are in the application materials.
I had a colleague once who had a tattoo artist who is coming to set up a tattoo parlor and he said he wears a T-shirt with his tattoos showing. That’s his business dress, right? It doesn’t make sense to send him to the interview in a suit. The officer’s just not going to believe that, right? I agree with that assessment: it doesn’t make sense for the profession and position that you’re going to be holding in the United States. So, that’s kind of the general rule of thumb, you need to appear, to the look like who you say you are.
The vice versa is true too. If you show up in a T-shirt and jeans and you’re supposed to have 25 years of business experience, I am going to be less inclined to believe that. It’s going to be harder for you to make the case that that’s really who you are if you’re not appearing. And your mannerisms and your English skills and all that plays a role in that as well.
I know some officers who were really picky about that. Even if they spoke the native language, they would do E2 interviews in English because they said “if you’re going to be a business person running your business in the U.S., you’ve got to be able to have a certain level of operational English.” And so then they would force the client to do the interview in English. So, all of that plays a part in the decision.
Angie Rupert: Right. I think that’s interesting because I get that question, not that often because most of my clients do speak English. On occasion I will get some clients that speak Spanish only, they usually understand English but are a little nervous, kind of a little scared to speak English. As a solo English speaker I do understand that! I took a few years of French and I would never utter a word to someone who actually spoke French because I know how bad my French is.
But, I hear that question a lot: do I have to speak English? And the answer is, it’s not a requirement but, does it make sense? Because I feel like if you’re moving to Miami and you speak Spanish you may have a shot. I got a client from the Ukraine who was moving to Orange County, so Ukrainian and Russian. Really in that business plan we emphasized “Hey he had all of his employees speak Russian and English and he’s not going to be doing client interactions and it’s actually a larger Russian population at that time” and really emphasizing that in a business plan. But I do tell people – especially if it’s not Spanish – I think you have a shot if it’s Spanish. But if it’s not Spanish you really need to speak English.
Anna Kerner Andersson: Yeah, the other side of that is the office or even if they speak your language typically, depending on the difficulty the language, maybe it’s a romance language they get six weeks of training, every 12 weeks of training before they go to post. So, their level of fluency to understand what your responses and to understand what’s going on, it’s going to be limited in most cases. You don’t want the officer to not understand what’s going on, right? So usually if you’ve got a fairly decent level of English, it’s an advantage to you to do the interview in English because if the officer understands what’s going on… That again, going back to making it easy for the officer, the better chance that you’re approved.
Angie Rupert: Yeah, and I think the reality is that E2 visas do take some time to put together. I get people and I’m sure you get this too, “Can we apply in two weeks?” No! we’re not going to be ready. You’re setting up a business on a new continent: this is not something that takes two weeks. That’s a hair appointment, this is a lot more than that.
But, the good news is you have time to work on your English. You have time! We’re gathering everything while you’re getting things together and get a little bit better at English, at least to where you’re comfortable. Even if you feel like you’re not perfect, you don’t need to be perfect but just get more comfortable. And I tell people that as well, because I do get people that do speak English but they’re a little shy. This is a perfect time for this you. Take a few online classes, whatever, you’ve got a couple of months here that I think you can really improve so that’s interesting.