Hadi Deeb: Tsar-Consul of Uzbekistan


They call him The Tsar. And deservedly so.

Who else can unilaterally, singlehandedly reinterpret Uzbek divorce law to deny numerous Uzbek Diversity Visa applicants? Who else can crush immigrant dreams using a variety of creative pretexts: disqualifying an applicant for failing to include a 3 day old baby (with no legal name) in a DV entry; a single woman for failing to include her nonexistent husband in her DV entry; a family for not including a second child in their entry, a child who was stillborn? Who else can have his staff ask a single woman applicant why she is not married or an infertile woman why she does not have more children? Who else can test an applicant’s knowledge of his third and fourth languages – i.e., not his native language and the language he learned in school – in black letter violation of the Department of State’s own rules to deny a visa? Who else can blatantly disregard the Department of State’s own rules by failing to provide the factual basis for immigrant visa denials? Who else can deny a visa – just because…? In this four-part series of articles, consular excess – in the person of the Consular Chief at the US Embassy in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, Hadi Deeb – will be examined.

In the Age of Trump, it would seem that nothing can surprise – but everything can shock. The case of Mr. Deeb certainly shocks – even to this lawyer who has practiced immigration law for 25 years. Remember, while immigration matters in the United States are at least subject to some checks and balances, with the judicial system providing some legal safety net, visa applicants overseas have no such legal buffer or security. With very limited exception, the doctrine of consular nonreviewability puts consular decisions and actions outside the purview of the courts. Apparently, Mr. Deeb counts on this to insulate his capricious and discriminatory decisions from public view.

To be clear, no one begrudges consular verifications of visa applicant credentials. Tashkent is a high-fraud post, and this practitioner applauds efforts to weed out fraud. Yet the existence of such fraud does not give license to serial mistreatment of and discrimination against Uzbek visa applicants. Approximately 10 years ago, the Embassy in Tashkent was similarly headed by abusive consular officers – John Ballard, Rafael Perez, and Meredith Rubin. But the Visa Office in the Department of State stepped in at that time to curb consular abuses. In the Age of Trump, that is no longer the case.

Perhaps worst of all, it now appears that at least one manifestation of Mr. Deeb’s consular excesses has seeped into new rules recently released by the Department of State. That is to say, Mr. Deeb has influenced policymakers in the Department of State to further empower consular officers to act on whims, caprices, and in bad faith. The following articles will discuss in more detail some of the victims of this consular fiat in Uzbekistan.

Part 2: Hadi Deeb: Tsar-Consul of Uzbekistan –

A Stillborn Baby, An Infertile Woman, and “Why aren’t you Married?”

As background, some information about the Diversity Lottery is in order. The State Department administers the Diversity Lottery program, which allows for individuals from low-immigration countries with a high-school education or its equivalent or certain work experience to qualify to immigrate to the United States. [1] Every year, more than 10 million individuals from all over the world participate, with approximately 100,000 selected to pursue the 50,000 visas available. The popularity of the Diversity Lottery extends to the citizens of Uzbekistan, a poor, predominantly Muslim country in Central Asia.

The annual Lottery is held in three stages: 1) a registration period, in which individuals submit their entries (in the fall); 2) selection and notification of the winners (spring); and 3) visa interviews/adjustment of status process (starting on October 1), at which time nonrefundable processing fees are paid. For selectees processing overseas, they must receive immigrant visas by September 30, or before September 30 if the allotment of 50,000 visas is exhausted. This means that if the selectee does not receive a visa by that date, his “winning Lottery ticket” becomes null and void. As a part of the rules, a participant must include information about his or her spouse and minor children in the initial entries, as well as recent photographs of each family member. The rules are relatively straightforward. Yet this non-complexity has not stopped Mr. Deeb from devising an array of creative pretexts to deny immigrant visas.

Take the situation of Mr. S. He and his wife had one child. His wife also gave birth to a stillborn baby. Naturally, Mr. S did not include that baby in his entry. Yet, the Embassy denied the family – saying that they really had two living children. Despite presenting medical documentation confirming the stillborn birth, as well as documentation from neighbors and government officials that they only had one living child, the family was refused.

Or consider the case of Mrs. B. She did not include in her entry or provide a photograph of her 3 day old baby because the baby did not have a legal name at that time nor a photograph. In fact, the baby was still in the hospital. Mr. Deeb denied Mrs. B, notwithstanding 9 FAM 502.6-4b.(2)(c)(iv), which allows for the exercise of positive consular discretion and the issuance of a visa in a situation where an individual does not follow to a tee the letter of the DV rules. Recognizing that unique situations will arise that do not fit neatly into the requirements of the DV rules, the Department of State put into place a residual rule that allows for the exercise of positive discretion, i.e., even if a consul believes that an applicant did not comply with the letter of the DV rules, a consul may issue the visa anyway. The Diversity Visa rules were put into place to combat fraud, imposters, and other malevolent action, none of which was present in Mrs. B’s case. Yet that did not stop Mr. Deeb from denying the visa – and filling the coffers of the Department of State with Mrs. B’s nonrefundable processing fees.

While profiling is specifically prohibited by Department of State rules, [2] that has not stopped Mr. Deeb from targeting “atypical” Uzbek applicants. Ms. Y lived with a boyfriend and was pregnant with their child. With no evidence, Mr. Deeb’s staff accused her of being married and not including her husband in her DV entry. She was denied. Ms. R, another single woman, was denied because she too was accused of being married. Ms. M. only had one child and because of hormonal changes, was unable to have any more children. She was denied because of a suspicion – with no evidence - of having more than one child. This theme of “not enough kids” is common. For example, Ms. K was denied because she “only” had two children. Each of these individuals presented countervailing evidence – either medical documentation, letters from government officials, and/or affidavits from friends/relatives/community leaders – to no avail.

Interestingly, these applicants were all denied under the standard rejection formulation of not complying with the rules of the Lottery program, i.e., none of them was accused of fraud or committing a material misrepresentation although each had, according to Mr. Deeb, intentionally lied and fabricated evidence to support their cases. And while theoretically these applicants would not be barred from playing the Lottery again because of the “standard” denial, the reason for this refusal would mean that even if selected again (odds of <1%), they would not receive the visas. Should Ms. K include a nonexisting child in her next entry to address consular suspicion of having another child? Should Ms. R get married – when Mr. Deeb believes she already is married?

Some Uzbek Lottery winners didn’t even experience the indignity of being formally denied. Rather, they reported to the Embassy on the appointed day - but did not make it to their interviews. Mr. S appeared for his immigrant visa at the Embassy in Tashkent as required, but was turned away from the interview – and his chance to immigrate to the United States – because there was a mark on his $20 bill, unacceptable for the cashier. Similarly, Ms. R was turned away from her interview by a cashier because she had purportedly failed to submit her visa application form – when in fact she had. Requests to Mr. Deeb to reschedule their interviews and correct these travesties were ignored.

This is just a small sampling of egregious cases. The magnitude of such consular tyranny in Tashkent leads one to consider: would such action take place at a US Embassy in Western Europe? If it did, would it be allowed to continue unfettered? Certainly not. The resulting scandal and public outcry would ensure that such action would be immediately shut down. Yet Mr. Deeb – with the continued backing of the Department of State – persists. Tomorrow’s article will detail another creative denial – and how that denial has led the Department of State to further empower consuls like Mr. Deeb.

Part 3: Hadi Deeb: Tsar-Consul of Uzbekistan –

“You are not proficient in your 3rd and 4th languages? Sorry, you are denied.”

The case of Mr. B is illustrative of the consular tyranny prevailing in Tashkent and how Mr. Deeb has apparently impacted Department of State decisionmakers in formulating visa policy.

Mr. B. has a high school diploma and thereby satisfies the Diversity Visa education requirements. [3] He is of Tajik background and grew up in Uzbekistan, where he learned the Uzbek language. Yet, when he attended his interview at the US Embassy in Tashkent, the consul tested not his knowledge of the Uzbek or Tajik languages, but his English- and Russian-language capabilities in violation of the State Department’s Foreign Affairs Manual:

(b) A DV refusal must be based on evidence that the alien did not in fact obtain the required degree and not on your assessment of the alien's knowledge level. You may not administer an exam, either oral or written, to test an applicant’s basic knowledge in order to determine whether they have the equivalent of a U.S. high school education. You may not refuse a DV applicant solely on the basis of your analysis of the applicant's basic knowledge. Doubts about the applicant’s claimed educational level raised by your interview, however, may lead you to investigate the authenticity of the educational credentials claimed by the DV applicant. 9 FAM 502-6-3(c)(4).

While Mr. B. studied some English and Russian more than 10 years ago, he had forgotten most of it. When he could not comprehend the text of the Russian-language article he was given to translate, the consul denied him for not meeting the education requirements. It is important to note that there was no accusation of fraud – no allegation that Mr. B had “bought” a diploma or presented a fake educational document. If that had been the case, he would have been found inadmissible under Section 212(a)(6)(C)(i) of the Immigration and Nationality Act. But notwithstanding numerous follow-up requests to Mr. Deeb and the Visa Office, no explanation was ever provided as to how the education requirement was not met, in violation of 9 FAM 504.11-3(A)(1)(b)(2).

This story then took another turn – one for the worse. Six months after the author raised this case with the State Department, the Visa Office rescinded this prohibition on consuls checking the knowledge of DV applicants. Prior to November 5, 2018, the remainder of the Education Evaluation rule as enunciated in the FAM read as follows:

(4) Education Evaluation:

(a) Each post needs to determine what course of study is equivalent to a high school education or its equivalent in the host country. Previously, posts were provided with a guidebook that provided information on high school equivalency country by country. That guidebook ("Foreign Education Credentials Required”) is no longer in print and is not available in updated format. You should not rely on it for your evaluation of high school credentials. You should make use of the resources found in your Public Diplomacy (PD) section to determine comparable courses of study in the host country that would meet the definition of a high school education or its equivalent. Contacts in the host country’s Ministry of Education may also be of help. If you have questions about certificates and diplomas, you should consult with your public diplomacy section, including Education USA advisors and locally engaged staff, as they are valuable resources in evaluating local education systems. PD personnel advise prospective students and evaluate their educational backgrounds and have experience with and knowledge of local schools. To determine the authenticity of any particular document, you will need to work with your Fraud Prevention staff to develop expertise in making that determination. Interviewing officers may wish to consult with other posts when in doubt about the authenticity of educational certificates from countries outside their consular district.

The new version of 9 FAM 502.6-3(C)(4) now reads:

(4) (U) Education Evaluation:

(U) The burden of proving that an applicant's education is equivalent to a high school degree is entirely on the applicant. If the applicant does not satisfy you that the applicant's education is equivalent to a high school degree but you believe additional evidence could meet the applicant's burden, you should refuse the applicant under 221(g) and request the applicant to provide additional information. If the applicant is unable to credibly prove the education equivalency requirement to your satisfaction, you should refuse the applicant 5A.

In short, the consular prohibition on testing the knowledge of applicants has been abolished. Consuls are now given free rein to assess applicants’ basic knowledge and deny them if their “knowledge” is deemed inadequate. Consuls can now substitute their own assessment of an applicant’s knowledge in the place of the educational system of any DV-participating country. Think about that – the Department of State has decided that, in the course of a 5-10 minute interview, a consul can evaluate better than the educational establishment of a given country whether an applicant has the equivalent of a high school education. And as can be seen in Mr. B’s case, this assessment can be in an applicant’s third and fourth languages!

In the next article the reader will learn how Mr. Deeb’s unilateral reinterpretation of Uzbek law and game of “hide the ball” has shattered the lives of unsuspecting visa applicants.

Part 4: Hadi Deeb: Tsar-Consul of Uzbekistan –

“Despite what you think, you really are not divorced.”

Mssrs. R, Y, K, K, and D each submitted entries for the DV-2018 Lottery during the registration period in the fall of 2016. They each had been divorced by an Uzbek court before the Lottery, so they indicated in their entries that they were divorced. Each of them was selected as a winner. After attending their interviews and presenting the court decisions as evidence of their divorce, they were advised by consular staff that they were being refused immigrant visas because they had not picked up their divorce certificates from the local registration office prior to submission of their entries: as a result, in the eyes of the Embassy, they were not officially divorced when they completed their Lottery entries.

While the Uzbek law on divorce is ambiguous, it has been in effect since 2011. What is beyond dispute is that the issuance of a court decision renders the couple without any marital rights and they must relinquish their marriage certificates during the court case. From 2011 until 2017, the Embassy, including Mr. Deeb, interpreted the law to allow for the presentation of a divorce court decision as satisfying the requirement. The US Embassy in Tashkent issued immigrant visas to Diversity Visa winners who presented divorce court decisions without any problem.

Then, Mr. Deeb decided to singlehandedly change this practice – without any advance notification to Uzbek DV applicants. It was the above-mentioned gentlemen who became victims of this reinterpretation – without having any advance notice, after incurring substantial DV-Lottery fees and expenses in traveling to Tashkent and undergoing medical exams. Because they relinquished their marriage certificates during their divorce proceedings, they were unable to submit a marriage certificate at the time of their visa interview. In other words, they would have been unable to qualify as “married” or “divorced” in the eyes of the US Embassy in Tashkent. [4]

As Mr. Deeb well knows, the problem is that the Diversity Visa registration period is 12-23 months before the actual visa interview. DV entrants for DV-2018 completed their entries from October 4 to November 7, 2016. They did so without any advance notice of the Embassy’s reinterpretation of Uzbek divorce law. Had they known, they would have been able to pick up their divorce certificates before submitting their DV-2018 entries. This, in the eyes of Mr. Deeb, would have qualified them to receive immigrant visas. Similarly, the registration period for DV-2019 was from October 18 to November 22, 2017. Individuals who submitted their entries at that time were also unaware of the newly-imposed Embassy requirement, and already after October/November 2017, were unable to correct the situation.

Incredibly, more than one year after the imposition of this new interpretation, neither the Embassy’s website nor DV instructions for Uzbek applicants warn Uzbek applicants. In fact, the Embassy’s own document list suggests that either a divorce decision or divorce certificate suffices. By failing to notify selectees in advance, the Embassy is setting up Uzbek visa applicants for visa refusals. In other words, the Embassy knows that there will be applicants applying for Diversity Visas and paying Diversity Visa fees who will not qualify because they were unaware of this newly-imposed requirement. In doing so, Mr. Deeb and the Department of State are able to reallocate these visas to other individuals, with the Department of State able to receive new processing fees.

Perhaps most insulting, consular officials have discretion to issue visas in these circumstances. 9 FAM 502.6-4b.(2)(c)(iv). As previously discussed, the Department of State recognizes that there will arise legal nuances that do not fit neatly into the requirements of the DV rules. In such situations, the Department has in place a residual rule that allows for the exercise of positive discretion, i.e., even if a consul believes that an applicant did not comply with the letter of the DV rules, a consul may issue the visa anyway. The Embassy does not suspect fraud or misrepresentation in any of these divorce cases. Yet, not only did Mr. Deeb not exercise this discretion; he has made the conscious decision to not inform future applicants of his reinterpretation.

Finally, one wonders whether Mr. Deeb will now seek to rescind the US permanent resident status of individuals from Uzbekistan who had only presented divorce decisions at the time of applying for Diversity Visas from 2011-2017. Potentially, such a pursuit could impact the status of hundreds of Uzbeks and their families in the United States. While this sounds farfetched and beyond the realm of possibility, keep in mind that it is 2018 – where conventional wisdom no longer applies, nothing is off-limits, and there is no predicting how far Mr. Deeb will go.

Make no mistake: the cases cited in these articles represent only a few examples of the numerous victims. Mr. Deeb’s reign of consular tyranny continues today. His denial du jour in DV-2019 relates to the “improper” spelling of the applicant’s patronymic in the DV entry – using the proper English spelling instead of the Uzbek spelling indicated in the applicant’s passport. I repeat the question posed in the second article of this series: would such discriminatory and systemic maltreatment of visa applicants by a US consular officer be tolerated in Western Europe? Isn’t it time that instead of circling the wagons, the Department of State steps in and does the right thing – removes Mr. Deeb from his post? Isn’t it time to stop this Tsar-Consul who continues to wreak havoc and destroy the lives of legitimate, unsuspecting Uzbek visa applicants?

[1] 8 U.S.C. § 1153(c)(2). “Requirement of education or work experience. – An alien is not eligible for a visa under this subsection unless the alien – (A) has at least a high school education or its equivalent, or (B) has, within 5 years of the date of application for a visa under this subsection, at least 2 years of work experience in an occupation which requires at least 2 years of training or experience.”

[2] See e.g., 9 FAM 403.10-3(A)(1) and State Department’s Customer Service Statement

[3] 8 U.S.C. § 1153(c)(2).

[4] One interesting side note is that the DV rules allow an applicant to exclude from the DV entry an ex-spouse or a spouse if legally separated. This makes sense: the ex-spouse or the legally separated spouse will not be immigrating. In such a case, the DV rules do not require a photograph of the ex-spouse or legally separated spouse. This too makes sense: why would an ex-spouse or a separated spouse provide a photograph for inclusion in a DV entry? But according to the Embassy in Tashkent, that exemption does not carry over to these “quasi-divorce” cases, notwithstanding the fact that the ex-spouse will not be immigrating and will not provide a photograph.

About The Author

Kenneth White has been a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association since 1994. He is also a member of the Association to Invest in USA. He was a long-time resident of Moscow, Russia, where he had a successful consular practice, resolving complicated visa issues, overcoming prior visa rejections and ineligibilities, as well as securing waivers on behalf of clients. He has sued the US Embassy in Moscow, ensuring changes in its processing of DV Lottery applications after the Lotterygate scandal, and securing a court order directing it to make a visa decision expeditiously on an application pending for more than three years. He has filed a Discrimination Complaint against the US Embassy in Tashkent with the Office of Inspector General at the Department of State, prompting changes in practices and personnel at the embassy. Mr. White has traveled to thirty five countries and represented clients at more than thirty consulates around the world.

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of ILW.COM.