Has Trump, USA’s entry policy caught out Nigerian software engineer?

Tony Webster Flickr

A Nigerian software engineer says that he was given a test at US customs to prove that he was indeed a software engineer.

Celestine Omin, working at startup Andela, had just landed in the USA when he was quizzed by a border agent, according to a post on LinkedIn. He was then taken into a small room, where an hour passed before another agent entered the room.

“Your visa says you are a software engineer. Is that correct?” the agent asked Omin, who described the official’s tone as “accusatory”.

The agent then took out a pen and paper and asked him to “write a function to check if a Binary Search Tree is balanced”. It wasn’t the only challenge posed to him.

“What is an abstract class, and why do you need it?” was another query.

Omin, who had spent 24 hours on flights to the USA, thought the questions seemed “opaque and could have multiple answers”. He told LinkedIn that the questions seemed like results someone with no software engineering would find when they Googled “questions to ask a software engineer”.

The Andela representative, who said he was too tired to think, took ten minutes to answer the questions, before being told that his answers were wrong.

Nigerian software engineer Celestine Omin says he was given a test by a US border agent upon landing in the country

Omin suspected that the customs officials weren’t trained to understand the answers but, as more time passed, he was let go with little explanation.

“He said, ‘Look, I am going to let you go, but you don’t look convincing to me,'” the software engineer explained, adding that he walked out without saying a word.

According to LinkedIn, Omin was in the country on a B1/B2 visa to help US-based fintech startup First Access. He later learnt that customs officials called Andela and First Access to corroborate his story. Andela isn’t just any startup either, connecting African engineers with US companies and having its series B funding round led by the Zuckerberg Chan Initiative.

Featured image: Tony Webster via Flickr (CC 2.0, resized)



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