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Dos and don'ts when applying for visas

Wednesday, August 08, 2012    

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Q: The consular officer told me that I did not fill out the application form correctly, and that it could affect the result of my visa interview. I told the officer that I didn't fill it out, the travel agent did. Why should I be penalised for someone else's mistake?

A: The crucial first step in qualifying for a visa is to ensure that your application form is fully and correctly filled out. You alone are responsible for its content.

If you know how to use a computer and have access to one, it is best to fill the application out yourself. The embassy is mindful that not all applicants can do this, however. If you must seek assistance from others, a trusted friend or neighbour or family member is best. No specialised knowledge is required beyond basic computing skills. If you must use a professional travel agent, be sure that you supervise the agent at every step. Again, you alone are responsible for the answers.

Think of the application form as your first opportunity to establish your credibility with the interviewing officer. If your answers on the form are incomplete or incorrect, the officer will naturally begin to question the facts you state in your application and in your visa interview.

Two common pitfalls can be easily avoided in filling out your form. First, it is very seldom appropriate to answer any of the questions with the response, "does not apply". If the information were not pertinent, we would not ask for it. If a question seems to apply to you only indirectly, still try to provide as much information as you can in response.

Second, be sure that you read the question carefully before answering. One question, for example, asks if the applicant has ever been arrested or convicted of a crime, even if later subject to a pardon or expungement. The "or" in that question is important: Even if you were arrested for something you didn't do and were later acquitted, you must answer "yes" to this question and fully explain the circumstances. It is likely that the officer may have alternate sources of information on your arrest record. If you were to answer "no", hoping that the officer wouldn't know to ask anything further, the officer might begin to question your account, and to consider whether you have something more to hide.

Remember that in the visa application process, the burden is on the applicant to establish himself as credible and qualified -- not on the officer. Filling out the application form honestly and completely is a good first step in showing yourself to be qualified. Failing to do so will put you at a significant disadvantage, and could result in the visa being refused.

For more information about American Citizen Services, please visit our website, http://kingston.usembassy.gov/service.html.

Reminder for US citizens

The 2012 election season is underway in the United States. To register to vote from abroad or to sign up to receive state-specific election alerts, visit http://fvap.gov. You may drop off your voting materials with postage affixed at the US Embassy in Kingston or at the US Consular Agencies in Montego Bay and the Cayman Islands for delivery to the United States.

The US Embassy staff in Kingston will answer questions you may have regarding the US Mission, including consular law, regulations and/or practice. In order to respect privacy, staff will not answer questions about specific visa applications. The embassy employs a visa appointment system, so it is only necessary for visa applicants to arrive 15 minutes before their scheduled appointment.

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

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