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Visas for infants, children and teenagers

Ask the US Embassy

Wednesday, June 30, 2010    

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WHILE the procedures for applying for most categories of non-immigrant visas are similar, there are a few separate rules for applications that involve minors. Here are some of the most common questions that arise during a minor's application process:

Q: My daughter is nine and her visa needs renewing. Do I have to take her with me, especially since the renewal date is on school day?

A: Any child under the age of 10 does not need to appear in person for a non-immigrant visa interview. You should make an appointment for her through our appointment system, and then come to the interview with documentation showing that you are her parent. Your child's birth certificate and a form of identification for you meets these requirements. Please consult the Embassy's website for further details regarding the application process.

Q: I raised my niece from childhood and I want to take her on a vacation in the United States. I have a notarised letter from her mentally disabled mother giving me permission to take care of the child. Can I apply for a non-immigrant visa for my niece?

A: Only a biological parent or legal guardian can apply for a child's visa. You may apply for your niece only if you are the court-appointed guardian of the child. Legal guardians must have gone through the formal adoption or guardianship procedures through the courts. If an individual other than the child's parent or legal guardian brings the child in for an interview, then the child's application will be suspended until one of the authorised individuals can come in for an interview.

If the guardian is present, but has not gone through the court process to adopt or take custody of the child, then the embassy can also suspend the application until this step is completed. Please note that the embassy can only suspend cases for up to one year from the date of the interview. In order to continue processing the child's application, the guardian will need to return with documentation from the court that proves that the guardian has custody of the child.

Q: I just turned 18 and went to renew my 10-year visitor's visa. Even though I abided by the terms of my visa, I was refused. Why was I refused? Can I appeal this decision?

A: Children, particularly young children, must qualify for a non-immigrant visa through their parents or legal guardians. This is because the child is not yet old enough to demonstrate the usual ties to his/her home country, such as through employment, property, or a record of independent, autonomous travel. Though you may have travelled well on a visa as a child, you must qualify for a visa on your own merits once you are older. You must prove to the consular officer that you meet the qualifications to hold a US non-immigrant visa. This may be difficult to establish, especially if you do not have a lengthy history of good travel, stable long-term employment, or other evidence of personal ties to your home country.

Decisions to approve or deny visa applications are made only by the interviewing consular officer. There is no appeal process once you are denied a non-immigrant visa, but you are invited to reapply once you have established yourself further and can demonstrate to the consular officer that you have had significant changes in your social, economic, and/or familial situation.

Q: I want to renew my son's five-year visa. If he gets through, can he receive a 10-year visa this time? What are the requirements for my son to receive a 10-year visa?

A: The current reciprocity agreement between Jamaica and the United States for a standard b1/b2 non-immigrant visa is a 10-year validity period. Of course, applicants may be issued visas with a shorter or longer validity depending on their specific travel circumstances. Previously, some children were issued five-year visas instead of the standard 10-year visa. This is no longer the practice. Every minor who is applying for a non-immigrant visa must demonstrate (usually through the parents) that they meet the qualifications for a 10-year non-immigrant visa.

The US 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: editorial@jamaicaobserver.com and we will send them to the embassy.

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