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The nightmare of chasing American dream

By | September 26th 2009

By Joe Kiarie

It is the dream of many Kenyans to acquire US citizenship but for some, the craze is a nightmare.

The desire for the Land of Opportunity has left many heartbroken after losing narrowly the chance of becoming US citizens.

Some have won the Diversity Visa (DV) Lottery programme, popularly known as the Green Card, but have been denied visas at the last minute on technicalities. This is even after disposing off all their lifetime’s savings and property to cater for the visa application.

Mr Joseph Kimuhu is still trying to come to terms with an eleventh-hour visa denial.

The 25-year-old applied for a DV form early last year. He was hopeful when he received a letter from the US consular notifying him that he was among those selected and registered for further consideration in the DV-2009 under case number 2009AF00062461.

Ms Veronicah Nyambura and Mr Joseph Kimulu had their dreams for a better life in America quashed. [PHOTO: JENIPHER WACHIE/STANDARD]

He says his life significantly changed in between the time he applied for the DV Lottery and the time he got the notification.

He had married under Kikuyu customary law in August, last year and became a father on July 16, meaning that the wife and the son were not included in the application. Not willing to chase after the wind, he wrote to the consular section at the US embassy on August 3, seeking clarification and advice on his new marital status.

"Kindly note that you will need to have the marriage registered. In addition, you will need to bring additional evidence to prove your ongoing relationship," read a response sent from the embassy three days later.

Normal tests

Thinking he had secured a reprieve, Kimuhu underwent the usual test conducted on US immigrants at the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) facility in Hurlingham, Nairobi. The test cost him Sh19,800.

Five days later, he visited the Attorney General’s office with his spouse and their wedding was legalised, and a certificate issued. This cost the couple Sh6,250. He had earlier the same month secured a signed affidavit from a lawyer as evidence for his marital status. Then came the awaited appointment at the US Embassy, when Kimuhu was to land a visa to the US. He paid Sh62,000 visa fee, only to be treated to the shock of his life.

"An official asked me if I am married and I said yes and showed him my wife and son. He issued me with a blue document and told me to wait for a week. I went back on September 9 but was told I would not be issued with a visa on grounds that I had been found ineligible under Section 212 (a) (5) (A) of the US Immigration and Nationality Act," he narrated to The Standard on Saturday.

The section notes that he had failed to meet Diversity Visa requirements and also failed to submit a complete application.

"I was never told anything else, the man just switched off the microphone, and walked away," recounts Kimuhu, who had by then spent Sh88,050.

Furious, he sent an e-mail to the consular seeking explanation why he had been denied a visa after following the embassy’s directions to the letter.

The consular replied: "Diversity Lottery Visa cases cannot be reviewed or reconsidered, and consequently, there is no appeal process."

Another victim of the strict policies at the embassy is Mr Mohamed Ibrahim from Mandera District. The 27-year-old applied for the Green Card on December 23, 2006, hopeful that it would go through and mark a turning point in his life.

Being his family’s provider, he was optimistic that gaining US citizenship would help improve his standards of living and cater adequately for his nine siblings. The US Embassy denied him a visa last year on grounds he did not possess a KCSE certificate.

This happened after he had parted with about Sh91,000, for visa processing. He had obtained the money after selling his textile business at Eastleigh, Nairobi.

Ibrahim received a confirmation he was among those short-listed for the DV-2008 programme on May 4, 2007. His case number was 2008AF00048752.

After attending the medical test, he went for the interview at the US Embassy on September 10 as advised.

KCSE certificate

"I was called by an elderly man after about one and a half hours and told to produce my KCSE certificate. I explained that I only studied up to class eight, but the gentleman just said ‘sorry’ and indicated I leave his office," notes a bitter Ibrahim.

Desperate to have his way, Ibrahim went to the Kenya Human Rights Commission offices to seek help, and the commission wrote a complaint letter to the US Ambassador Michael Ranneberger, seeking details on Ibrahim’s case. But the visa acquisition deadline expired as he waited for a reply. Ms Veronica Nyambura, a widow and a mother of two from Ndaragwa constituency, also had her visa dreams shattered.

Nyambura received her DV 2009 letter last year. Under the rules, one should include individuals who are below 21 years as beneficiaries. She says she included her children as beneficiaries since they were both below 21 by the time of application.

But her daughter turned 22 in between the application and the medical test last month. Her application was annulled on grounds that her daughter was overage.

"They should give us enough information before they take a single coin from us," says Nyambura, who spent Sh51,579 on the medical test.

But a spokesperson at the US embassy told The Standard on Saturday that DV-Lottery programme has its official guidelines that are followed to the letter. She noted there have been numerous cases of people claiming they have beneficiaries after winning the lottery, yet they had not indicated when applying.

On Ibrahim’s case, another spokesman had earlier absolved the embassy from blame, saying the applicant did not read the Green Card lottery application information well before applying.

"To be eligible, one must have a high school diploma, which is defined as successful completion of 12 year elementary and secondary education.

"If not so, one should have an equivalent of two years work experience in a position that requires at least two years of training or experience to be filled, during the last five years," he stated.

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