JFK Airport Border Agent Makes Nigerian Software Engineer Take Test to Enter Country

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The incident is said to have happened at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport. Image copy/AFP

A software engineer from Lagos, Nigeria, is claiming that he was made to take a written test by U.S. airport immigration officers because they weren’t convinced he was telling the truth about his occupation.

According to social networking site LinkedIn, Celestine Omin, 28, landed at New York’s JFK airport Feb. 26 after a 24-hour flight from Nigeria. After being asked a series of questions by a U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer, he was taken into a room for further checks.

“Your visa says you are a software engineer. Is that correct?” an officer is reported to have asked Omin. He says he was then given a piece of paper and a pen and told to answer these two questions to prove he is actually a software engineer: “Write a function to check if a Binary Search Tree is balanced.” and “What is an abstract class, and why do you need it?”

Omin, who is employed by Andela, a tech start-up with offices in New York, Lagos, Nairobi and San Francisco and reportedly has a short-term visa to work in the U.S., told LinkedIn it seemed to him the questions had been “Googled” by “someone with no technical background.” He said later on Twitter that he was “too tired to even think” and told the officer they could “talk about other computer science concepts.” After he handed back his answers, he was told by the officer that they were wrong. He said he presumed he was required to provide “the Wikipedia definition” for the questions.


However, he was even more surprised a little later when the officer told him he was “free to go.”

“Look, I am going to let you go, but you don’t look convincing to me,” said the officer, according to Omin.

“I didn’t say anything back,” Omin said. “I just walked out.”

He later found out that border protection officers had phoned Andela to verify his story.

Nigeria is not one of the seven countries included in President Donald Trump’s temporary immigration ban. However, the African country has been struggling with the threat of terrorism in recent times, in particular from the militant Islamist group Boko Haram.

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