Sun | Jan 21, 2018

Visa requests aplenty - US Embassy in Kingston receives 159,000 applications in 2015

Published:Saturday | December 19, 2015 | 12:00 AMGary Spaulding
Michael Schimmel, consul general at the US Embassy in Kingston, Jamaica, during an interview yesterday.

A SIGNIFICANT swell in the number of visa applications to the United States Embassy in Kingston in 2015 by Jamaicans has propelled heightened analysis by embassy officials.

Consul General at the US Embassy in Kingston Michael Schimmel revealed that the 159,000 visa applications recorded in 2015 represent the biggest increase in two decades.

He said this exceeded pre-recession numbers. "For the last three years, we have seen a significant and steady uptick in number and rate of approvals for visas," he asserted.

"We think it is necessary for people to understand that it is not difficult for people to get a visa if they understand what to do, as hundreds of thousand of Jamaicans can attest, over the last few years," said Schimmel.

He said that an examination of visa application numbers since 1997 has shown that the year 2015 has the highest number of visa applications recorded over the 18-year period.

Schimmel said that in the early years, before he arrived in Jamaica, 85,000 applications were received by the embassy.

"At the end of 2015, we are now close to 159,000. We are close to double," said Schimmel. "The last time that we had seen numbers in excess of 100,000 was back in 2007."


Back to pre-recession levels

Added Schimmel: "So we are back up to the point where we were before the recession."

He noted that, in economic terms, the recession started in 2008-2009. Schimmel disclosed that 35 per cent of the 159,000 visa applications were disapproved, "so 65 per cent of the visa applicants received visas".

But Schimmel was emphatic that the heightened disapproval rate had nothing to do with a quota system established by the US authorities.

While a higher number of visa applications had been processed by officials in 2015, a higher number of applicants had been denied.

Schimmel said surveys conducted by immigration officials revealed that the vast number of Jamaicans who travelled legitimately on their visitors' visas to the US returned.

"We consult with Inland Security to monitor the people who visited the US and, based on the surveys we conducted between 2011 and 2013, only 1.1 per cent of the visa recipients did not return to Jamaica."

According to Schimmel, the 1.1 per cent overstay rate is very modest. He was supported by Public Affairs Officer Joshua Polacheck, who noted that 98.9 per cent made appropriate use of the visas.