Ambassador David Jacobson: Applicant for the Day

I have seen this done in some overseas mission, usually for new consular officers just starting out on their first tours at a Consular Section. They go through what is often called the “Applicant for the Day” routine. The routine is part of section’s training program to acquaint new officers with the process that applicants go through when they apply for consular services. But this is the first time I’ve heard of an ambassador try out the routine and blog about it.

From Ambassador Jacobson’s post: November 13, 2009 — Ottawa

Like many of you in Ottawa, and in other large cities in Canada, I had seen lines of people waiting outside US Embassies or Consulates holding packets of papers. Today I joined the line to find out for myself what people experience when they come to our Embassy for consular services. For U.S. citizens this typically means coming for passports or other documents and for non-Americans it means visas. (Generally, Canadians do not need visas to go to the U.S. So most of our consular work in Canada is for people from third countries who are here in Canada and who need US visas.)

Consular services are the aspect of our work that most directly impacts people’s lives. In responses to my blog, many of you have asked me several questions about our consular services. I wanted to see what “applicants” see. So I became an applicant for the day. I went through the security screen, which is similar to the screening at airports. I saw where people pay the required fees and where they are interviewed by the American consular officers. I even took part in a brief interview myself. Although the consular process is rigorous, the consular staff made every effort to be friendly, efficient, and thorough.

It’s not every day that you hear an ambassador pitch for the consular section, or visit it for that matter. Now if you can get all ambassadors to go through this routine from Albania to Zimbabwe, that would go a long way in making post leadership understand the challenging and demanding work done at the Section. And I don’t mean just the political ambassadors but also career appointees — even if career ambassadors have once done their consular tours twenty years ago. The Wang computers, the microfiche, the Burroughs machine that they may remember from all those years are all things for the visa museum now.

Continue reading the ambassador’s post here.