Q: My visa expires in another couple of months. Do I wait until it has expired to apply for a new one or can I do so a month before the expiration? I am a Jamaican living in the Cayman Islands.
A: When you apply to renew your visa, the interview process is similar to that of first-time applicants. With a strong previous travel record, most people with prior visas qualify for a new visa when they reapply. For renewals, we consider several things:
1. Your use of your previous visa: This includes reviewing how often you travelled, how long you stayed during your trips and how your travel patterns fit into your overall social and economic situation. The goal is simply to ensure that your travel makes sense. For example, if we interview a teacher, who spent several months in the US during the school year, we will want to understand how that person can be absent from their employer for an extended time; in this type of case, it could be that a tenured teacher had accumulated extensive vacation leave and chose to travel during the school year. If applicants are unable to explain the frequency or duration of their trips to the United States, the interviewing officer will consider this as part of the renewal application. Before renewing your visa, officers try to weigh whether you will use a new visa according to the terms outlined in our immigration law.
2. Your current and former situation: This includes looking at your economic, familial and social situation when you were issued your previous visa and comparing it to your current situation. We understand that things often change, which is why we look at numerous factors during your application. Illness, family issues or your employment can prevent you from travelling on your visa. You should explain this information to the interviewing officer so that he can understand why you may not have travelled recently. Also, in these situations, we will want to understand how your situation may have changed since your last application and whether those changes affect your qualifications for a new visa. If you are no longer employed, for example, we will want to understand how you will fund your travel and what connects you to Jamaica (which would cause you to return after visiting the US).
3. Your immigration and criminal history: This includes checking for any immigration or criminal violations, which may have taken place while you held your previous visa. Because we have access to a wide variety of information, we encourage all applicants to be forthcoming on their application, specifically when answering the questions about previous arrests or deportations. If an interviewing officer determines that you have concealed information, it can make you permanently ineligible for re-entry into the US.
As mentioned above, both first-time and renewal applicants must show that they will abide by the terms of a visa and that they are not intending to immigrate to the United States. Our officers are trained to evaluate your application and conduct your interview in a way that allows us to understand your situation and determine if you qualify for the visa. Individuals applying to renew their visa should bring their current and former passport(s) to their interview and be prepared to discuss their use of the previous visa, their current situation, and any criminal or immigration issues.
Individuals are allowed to renew their visas before and after they expire. It is not at all unusual for an applicant to renew a visa several months in advance. Likewise, it is not unusual to renew a visa one or two years after it has expired. At this time, the current wait period for scheduling an appointment for a non-immigrant visa interview is less than a week, so we encourage individuals to schedule appointments now, if their visas are set to expire in the next few months, for convenience of travel. Information on scheduling an interview, as well as the necessary forms and documents, are listed for you on our website at: http://kingston.usembassy.gov/visa_services.html.
The American Embassy staff in Kingston will answer any questions you may have regarding US consular law, regulations and/or practice. In order to respect the privacy of applicants, the embassy will not answer questions on specific personal applications.
Send your questions to: firstname.lastname@example.org and we will send them to the embassy.