US Visa applications: What you need to know about the process
Procedures, dos and don’ts and Green Card lottery
KUWAIT: US visa applications in Kuwait have increased by around 15 percent compared to the same period last year. According to Robin Busse, the US Embassy Deputy Consular Chief/Visa Chief, the increase is propelled in particular by applications from third country nationals. Speaking exclusively with Kuwait Times, Busse said the number of applications by Kuwaitis also increased, as majority of our visa customers continue to be Kuwaitis. The procedures and regulations implemented at the embassy for acquiring a US visa remain the same, except for some minor changes.
“In order to make it known to everyone, we created new pictorial signage that doesn’t use words. It is placed at the consular parking lot and at the first security checkpoint to inform the public what not to bring inside the consular section in order to avoid delays,” Busse said. Prohibited items include cigarette lighters and all electronic items such as phones, cameras, smart watches, flash drives and headphones.
“These are all items which you cannot bring inside the embassy. If you bring these items, you will be asked to leave them in your car, or worse, you will have to reschedule the appointment. We do not allow things to be kept at the security checkpoint. Normally, delays are selfinflicted because applicants bring prohibited items which should not be brought at the embassy. We do this for security purposes. Once you are permitted to enter the embassy, in about one hour the visa process will be over and you can go back to your workplaces,” he added.
Visa applicants for the purposes of tourism and business are advised by the consul to visit www.ustraveldocs.com and download the application form. On the website, applicants can set appointments and pay the application fee through Burgan Bank. “Applicants can choose the time to attend the personal interview. Generally, we receive visa applications three times a week (during low seasons) and four times during summer. Once a week, we entertain immigrant visa applications,” Busse said.
Many visa applications at the US Embassy are filled by third party service providers. While they are not illegal, the Embassy cautions people on using their services. “At the end of the day, it is still about you. You are responsible for the application and you should fill it truthfully,” he said. “We do not mind vendors - if you channel your application through service providers, you will pay for their services, but you are still responsible for the information provided on the application form and not the vendor. The problem is some people forget to fill even the basic information needed such as the date of birth, home address and email. If the visa is approved, they will get their passport with the visa stamp via Aramex in five days or less. Generally speaking from day one to finish, you only need 10 to 14 days for the entire visa process from scheduling an appointment to receipt of the visa,” said Busse.
For student visa applications, the same process is followed except that the student has to provide the I-20 form. “This form is provided by the university in the United States they have applied to - it’s a document that certifies they are admitted in that university or college. They also have to bring the receipt showing they have paid the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) fee. The application process is the same. The student must also provide the documents mentioning how they are going to pay for the next one year. We need to see bank statements of their parents who will be paying for their education. If the Ministry of Higher Education is paying, we want to see the Ministry approval on their scholarship grant. Applicants can and should apply in the country where they live, even if they are not a citizen of that country,” Busse said.
Asked if there are instances of visa denial, he said the vast majority of applicants are successful. “The applicant needs to overcome the presumption, built into U.S. immigration law, that they are intending immigrants, by demonstrating that they have strong ties to their country, which will compel them to come back after studying or visiting the United States. We look for the applicant’s connections and ties in the country where they live to make sure they will actually come back, in the case of tourist visas. For student visas, we also look for who will finance their studies in the US,” he explained.
For Kuwaiti students, normally the US government provides a 5-year visa, and a 10-year tourist visa for Kuwaitis; for Egyptians and Lebanese for instance, it’s five years. Busse advised would-be students to the US to maintain their SEVIS status. “The international student advisor is very important to maintain your status. The SEVIS database tracks students. Make sure to maintain contact with the international student advisor who can update your SEVIS status, as needed, in order not to experience a denial the next time you apply for a student visa. Students can transfer their SEVIS number from school A to school B to avoid termination of SEVIS status,” he said.
Dos and don’ts
When in the US, students have two ways to learn - inside the classroom and just being in the US, experiencing American culture. When travelling to the United States, he advised visitors to make sure the passport is valid for up to six months. “You’ll do what US citizens do. You are subject to our laws and regulations if you are in the US, so abide by the laws of the land. It means if you have driving tickets for speeding, I advise you to pay the fine immediately. If you have a case filed against you in court, go to the court and settle it - don’t just leave the country; take responsibility for it. While in the US, driving under the influence of alcohol or narcotics is prohibited. We can revoke your visa status on these grounds,” Busse added. Revocation of the visa is usually effective when the visitor leaves the US.
Green Card Lottery
The Trump administration has issued a presidential proclamation banning citizens of six countries from traveling to the US. So is the proclamation effective? “Yes, it is, but there are some exceptions to the Presidential Proclamation and possibility to waive the restrictions, usually based on humanitarian factors,” Busse said. “In fact, people who have won the green card lottery from these countries are being considered. Nationals who are restricted from traveling to the US can still apply and follow the same visa application procedures. We examine it carefully and we find ways to help. The presidential proclamation is a complex matter and there are exceptions and waivers in this complex scenario - we consider humanitarian issues,” he reiterated.
Meanwhile, American Citizen Services Chief Harvey Beasley noted the US Embassy provides routine consular services such as issuing new passports, renewing existing passports and processing of birth certificates. Notary services are also available for people to get their necessary documents. A new passport can be obtained in two to three weeks. “My advice to US citizens is to renew their passport early, and to be sure to review our website for details on which application to fill out and what to bring to the Embassy. For example, when renewing the passport of a minor, parents should not forget to bring their child’s birth certificate. Also, take care with photos. Photographs should have a white background. US citizens can wear a hijab in their passport photos, but they have to show the hairline, please see our website at kw.usembassy.gov for additional details. “Beasley said.
American Citizen Services Chief Harvey Beasley (left) and Robin Busse, the US Embassy Deputy Consular Chief/Visa Chief.