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Travelling while waiting for an immigrant visa

Wednesday, August 29, 2012    

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Q: When I went to the embassy for my immigrant visa interview, the consular officer cancelled my visitor's visa, even though I had never misused it. Why did she do that? Is there any way I can travel to the United States before my immigrant visa is issued?

A: According to US law, in order to qualify for a non-immigrant visa you must demonstrate that you have a residence abroad that you do not intend to abandon. In other words, you need to show that you do not intend to immigrate to the United States. When you appear for an interview for an immigrant visa you are demonstrating that you do intend to abandon your residence in Jamaica and migrate to the United States. That is why the consular officer cancelled your non-immigrant visa.

You can avoid the inconvenience of not being able to travel on your visitor's visa by making sure that you are well prepared for your immigrant visa appointment. If you see to it that all your documents are in order before your appointment, your immigrant visa can be issued very quickly and you will not need to wait weeks, or even months, before you can travel again.

The most common reason that applicants are not issued immigrant visas at their initial interview is that they are missing an essential document, usually a police certificate, a marriage certificate, or a tax document from a US sponsor.

In preparation for your immigrant visa appointment, make sure that you have an unexpired police certificate since they are valid for only one year. Even if you sent a police certificate to the National Visa Centre, it may expire by the time of your interview. If you think yours may expire soon, obtain a new one before your interview.

Make sure that your file contains original birth certificates and marriage certificates, if applicable, for the US petitioner and all the applicants. We can only accept original Jamaican birth and marriage certificates on the new security paper. You can order new copies from the Registrar General's Department in advance of your interview if necessary.

Finally, be sure to obtain the correct tax documents for your US petitioner and any US joint sponsors. Many files lack the required sponsorship documents at the initial interview. The best way to ensure that you have all the necessary financial documents is to ask your US sponsors to send you their most recent income tax return transcripts, which they can order from www.IRS.gov, and their W-2 statements, which are available from their employers.

If you know that you will need to travel to the US on urgent business after your immigrant visa appointment, tell the consular officer immediately at your appointment. In rare cases, the consular officer can refrain from cancelling your visa, as long as you convince him that you will use the non-immigrant visa correctly and return to Jamaica to complete your immigrant visa processing.

Likewise, if an urgent need to travel arises after your immigrant visa interview, but before you have received your visa, you may apply for a new non-immigrant visa. Again, however, you will need to convince the consular officer that you will use your non-immigrant visa correctly and return to Jamaica to complete your immigrant visa processing.

If you arrive at your initial immigrant visa interview well-prepared, however, you will most likely be issued your immigrant visa promptly and the cancellation of your visitor's visa will not cause you any inconvenience.

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.

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

For safety and security measures, the US Embassy asks that all individuals arrive at the Embassy or Consular Agency no more than 15 minutes before their designated appointment time.

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