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Home Technology Regulation Nigerian engineer asked for proof of skills at JFK

A Nigerian software engineer who works for Andela in the US was asked for proof of his qualifications at JFK airport in New York when he was trying to enter the US recently.

Andela is a start-up that connects developers from Africa with American employers.

Celestine Omin had left Lagos, Nigeria, for the US after working for Andela remotely for six months, according to a post on LinkedIn.

The company accepts under 1% of applicants and is backed by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan.

But on arriving at the Customs and Border Protection counter at JFK, Omin found that there was more to entering the country than having a valid job visa and being employed by an American company.

He was asked to write a function to check if a binary search tree is balanced and also to define an abstract class and why it was needed.

Omin told the Recode website that the questions looked like someone had done a web search for the sentence "questions to ask a software engineer".

When he handed his answers back, he was told they were wrong. After a while, he was told he was free to go. The CBP official told him that even though he (Omin) did not look convincing, he was free to go.

Omin later found out that the CBP had called Andela and First Access to corroborate his story.


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Sam Varghese

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A professional journalist with decades of experience, Sam for nine years used DOS and then Windows, which led him to start experimenting with GNU/Linux in 1998. Since then he has written widely about the use of both free and open source software, and the people behind the code. His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.






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