US Visa ap­pli­ca­tions: What you need to know about the process

Pro­ce­dures, dos and don’ts and Green Card lot­tery

Kuwait Times - - Local - By Ben Gar­cia

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.

Pro­ce­dures

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.

US cit­i­zens/ser­vice­men

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.

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