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Qualifications for renewing, reapplying for US non-immigrant visas

ASK the US Embassy

Wednesday, February 03, 2010    

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Q: I received my visa in 2000 but have not used it for travel due to a number of circumstances, including ill health. I have also had to stop working due to my ill health and wonder if these changes will affect my renewal application.

Q: My visa was cancelled in 2004, due to misuse, and I was banned from re-entering the US for five years, until August 2009. Is there a time span I have to wait before I can reapply for and be considered for another visa?

A: While these questions involve two separate circumstances, they both seek information about qualifications for US non-immigrant visas, specifically renewal visas.

In general, individuals applying for a visa for the first time must demonstrate to the interviewing officer that they can overcome the concept of immigrant intent, meaning that they have strong enough connections to their home country to cause them to return after a temporary stay in the United States. These connections can be through employment, family, church, or other social groups.

When applying to renew a visa, the interview process is very similar to that of first-time applicants; in these situations, the consular officers consider several things:

* Use of the previous visa:

This includes reviewing how often the person travelled, how long they stayed during their trips, and how the travel patterns fit into that person's overall social and economic situation. There are no exact measurements of good use of a visa, and the interviewer's goal is simply to ensure that the applicant's travel makes sense. For example, when interviewing a teacher who spent several months in the US during the school year, the officer 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 a visa, officers try to weigh whether the applicant will use a new visa according to the terms outlined in US immigration law.

* Applicant's current and former situation: This includes looking at the economic, family and social situation when the applicant was issued a previous visa and comparing it to that person's current situation. It is understandable that situations often change, which is why the officer will look at numerous factors in an application. As in the question above, illness, family issues, or employment situations can prevent one from travelling on a valid visa. This information should be explained to the interviewing officer, so that she or he can understand why the applicant may not have travelled recently. Also, in these situations the officer will want to understand how one's situation may have changed since the last application, and whether those changes affect qualifications for a visa. If no longer employed, for example, the officer will want to understand how the travel will be funded and what connects the applicant to Jamaica (reasons that would cause a traveller to return after visiting the US). Ties to employment are just one factor; individuals can demonstrate their connections to Jamaica through family, social groups, or property ownership, as well.

* Immigration and criminal history:

This includes checking for any immigration or criminal violations, which may have taken place while the applicant held a previous visa. Because the embassy's consular section has access to a wide variety of information, all applicants are encouraged to be forthcoming on their application, specifically when answering the questions about previous arrests or deportations. If this is the applicant's situation, being honest and providing information at the onset is a key factor; if an interviewing officer determines that an applicant has concealed information, it can make that person permanently ineligible for re-entry into the US. In the second question above, the individual indicated a ban of five years to be lifted in August 2009, when it expired. However, it is important to keep in mind that to qualify for another visa, this applicant will need to show the interviewing officer all over again that she or he has strong connections to Jamaica and that they are not likely to repeat the prior offence if granted another visa. The same situation applies to individuals with criminal convictions in the US, Jamaica, or other countries. The officer will seek to understand when the crime was committed, the severity of the crime, and whether the applicant is likely to repeat the crime in the US or elsewhere if issued a visa.

Also, 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. The embassy's officers are trained to evaluate applications and conduct interviews in a way that allows them to understand applicants' situations and determine if they 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.

At this time, the current waiting period for scheduling an appointment for a non-immigrant visa interview is less than a week. The embassy encourages individuals to schedule appointments now if their visas are set to expire in the next few months. Information on scheduling an interview, as well as the necessary forms and documents, are listed on the embassy's website at: http://kingston.usembassy.gov/visa_services.html

SPECIAL NOTE TO AMERICAN CITIZENS

As of February 1, the American Citizen Services Unit of the US Embassy began to use an appointment system to schedule non-emergency services such as passport applications or renewals and consular reports of birth abroad. To schedule an appointment for these services, American citizens should e-mail the embassy at: Kingstonpassport@state.gov.

Appointments will be scheduled for the hours of 8:00 am to 11:00 am Monday through Friday. Also, visit our website at http://kingston.usembassy.gov or visit us on Facebook US EmbassyJamaica.

Send your questions to editorial@jamaicaobserver.com and we will send them to the embassy. In order to respect the privacy of applicants, the embassy will not answer questions on specific personal applications.

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