I still remember the tears and look on the applicants face after I refused them.
They likely also remember the look on my face when they told me they had paid $5000.00 to a consultant or “tout” who “guaranteed” they’d get their tourist visa if they produced fake documents.
I was a green, first tour line officer in Lagos, Nigeria and this was one of my first visa interviews. This was the first time I’d refuse someone in this situation, but sadly it wouldn’t be the last. Over the course of a career that spanned four countries, four continents and tens of thousands of visas, I encountered people that paid ungodly sums for simply bad information. Applicants would tell me and my colleagues that they paid thousands and even tens of thousands of dollars for the “right” paperwork or the “right” information. And time and time again, those bilked applicants would be wrong.
Immigration consultants or “touts” are common in just about every country. While most of these businesses may be legitimate, there are a substantial number that feed off the desperation of applicants and the complexity of the immigration system. I work for Argo to fight them. And I work for Argo to help that first family I had to refuse because they were unqualified and to help all the families that came after in my window who were abused and defrauded by unscrupulous “touts” and agents.In every country I served, all Consular officers – from managers to ELOs – would always joke about how we wish there was a company that would tell applicants the truth and give actual information. We all dreamed of a company that would be an “add-on” to Consular and all the honest law firms and immigration consultants out there. We would joke about it in afternoon happy hours and over lunch. We would always say: “If only.” Thankfully the time for that “add-on” has come and “if only” has arrived. Argo is what we’ve been waiting for.
As Embassies and Consulates move away from answering questions via email and phone, touts are filling the knowledge gap with mistakes, misstatements, and outright fraud. The purpose of Argo is to combat that. I am proud to be a part of a team that offers the truth to applicants and provides an honest preview of the visa interview process.