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Always be mindful of how long you stay in the US

Wednesday, December 18, 2013    

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Q: When I tried to renew my visa my application was denied. I was always granted six months in the United States by the immigration officer at the airport, and I always left after five or five-and-a-half months. Why would the consular officer deny my visa if I was following the rules?

A: When a consular officer reviews a visa renewal application, he or she seeks to determine whether the applicant's previous visa was used lawfully. Although you may have stayed for less than six months on each trip, the consular officer did not believe that you were using the visa lawfully. It is possible he or she thought you were working illegally in the United States during your long trips, as unfortunately many people have used a visitor visa to do this. A B-1/B-2 visa does not permit an individual to perform any work, even work such as babysitting or elder care, construction work or home repair in the United States.

Life in the United States is expensive, so it is difficult to believe that an individual can stay for almost half a year in the country without a means of financial support. It is your responsibility to demonstrate to the consular officer that you could comfortably support yourself during long trips to the United States without having to resort to working illegally. This can be very difficult to do, especially for individuals who have a pattern of frequent long trips to the United States. Even if your aunt, cousin, sibling or other relative was willing to pay for your food and other living expenses in the United States, it will be hard for the consular officer to understand how your family in Jamaica managed to support itself if you were not home to work and contribute to your family's finances.

To avoid any misunderstandings about your travel history, always be mindful of how long you stay in the US and how you will explain the purpose and length of your trips to an immigration or consular officer. Even if you are granted six months of stay by the officer at the airport, this does not mean you have to stay this long for every trip. If you do choose to take long trips, come to your visa renewal appointment prepared to explain in great detail how you spent your time in the United States and how you could afford your long stay.

For additional information regarding all types of non-immigrant and immigrant visas, please visit our website at: http://kingston.usembassy.gov/visas.html. Applicants are encouraged to apply early in order to allow ample time for processing.

Americans urged to register with embassy when vacationing

Q: My sister is a US citizen and will be traveling to Jamaica to visit me for the holidays. Does she need to register her trip with the US Embassy?

A: The U.S. Embassy strongly encourages all American citizens traveling abroad to enroll with the Smart Traveler Enrollment Programme (STEP) at www.step.state.gov.

STEP is a free service provided by the US Government to its citizens who are traveling to, or living in, a foreign country. STEP allows US citizens to enter information about their upcoming trip or residence in Jamaica so that the US Embassy can provide them with up-to-date information in the event of an emergency. The travel and contact information entered into STEP also makes it easier for the embassy to contact the individual and their loved ones during an emergency.

To register for STEP, go to www.step.state.gov, click on the "Create an Account" link, and follow the instructions provided. Once an account is created, it is important to provide thorough information so that the US Embassy can communicate and assist you effectively.

The US Embassy would also like to remind everyone traveling for the holiday season to check the expiration of their passport before finalizing any travel plans. Passport appointments can be made online at http://kingston.usembassy.gov/appointments.html.

For additional information regarding services available to US citizens abroad, please visit http://kingston.usembassy.gov or the www.travel.state.gov website.

Send your questions to: editorial@jamaicaobserver.com and we will forward them to the embassy.

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