Fri | Sep 22, 2017

Jamaicans no longer lining up for US visas

Published:Wednesday | May 17, 2017 | 5:00 AMRyon Jones
The reduced line at the United States Embassy in St Andrew is because of a change in system at the embassy, which Jamaicans have started taking advantage of.

The lines outside the United States Embassy in St Andrew have noticeably got shorter in recent times, with persons speculating that it could be a result of Donald Trump becoming America's 45th president.

Throughout the presidential campaign and since taking office, Trump's signature issue has been his strong opposition to illegal immigration, reflected in his proposed immigration ban, "extreme vetting" procedures, and Mexican border wall.

But according to Counsellor for public affairs at the US Embassy in Jamaica, Joshua Polacheck, there has, in fact, been no reduction in the number of Jamaicans applying for US visas.

"People are free to speculate and make whatever theories they want, but we have seen a steady drumbeat of somewhere between 600 and a 1,000 appointments per day, and those numbers are generally dependent on the number of officers we have working that particular day," Polacheck told The Gleaner.

"That number has been steady my entire time here in Jamaica. We did have a backlog; there was a wait for appointment time, but we have largely eliminated that as well, and that is because we brought extra staff in and not because of a decrease in demand."

CHANGE IN SYSTEM

Polacheck explained that the reduced line is totally down to a change in system at the embassy, which Jamaicans have started taking advantage of. The change has seen visa applicants not only getting an appointment date but also a specific time.

"There has actually been no need for anybody to line up in front of the embassy for two or three years now," Polacheck said. "The time on appointment is when someone needs to show up; they don't need to come hours and hours earlier, and that message is slowly getting out to people, and that's why the lines have decreased."

He added, "If you show up before your appointment time, you are not going to be allowed inside the embassy, and so especially when the weather is like this, we want to make it clear to people if you show up when your appointment time in is, you will be allowed in and have the entire process over within an hour."

From fiscal year 2013 to 2016, the number of US visa applications went up from approximately 85,000 per year to 185,000 per year. A non-immigrant US visa application costs US$160 (approximately J$20,160).

ryon.jones@gleanerjm.com