Immigration Corner: How do I prove I won't run off?
Dear Mrs Walker-Huntington,
I am an 18-year-old student in grade 13 at a high school in Jamaica. I was recently accepted to the University of the West Indies, Mona, and my parents want to reward me with a trip to the United States (US). I recently got my passport and I would like to apply for my visa in June. My father has a visa, but my mother does not. Do you think my chances are favourable and what could I use to prove my ties to the country as a student who is unemployed?
As you seem to be aware, all applicants for non-immigrant (temporary) visas to the US are thought to have the intention to migrate and they have to convince the consular officer that they intend to return to the home country. Some of the factors that the officers use are age, marital status, children, employment, school enrolment, home and/or property ownership, automobile ownership, and credit obligations. The more factors you possess to show ties to home, the more likely you are to be approved for a visa. Having said that, some people appear for the visa interview with all or most of the sample factors and are denied. They are usually given a form letter that explains that the consular officers are trained to make quick decisions and sometimes do so without many questions.
It can be very disappointing when persons apply for visas and are denied and are not questioned or told why they are denied. For many working professionals, it is an inexplicable position to find themselves in. Because of this, many persons in Jamaica seek the assistance of unscrupulous persons who claim to know what the embassy is looking for in granting non-immigrant visas. I say unscrupulous because these 'visa fixers' answer the questions on the visa application in a manner they think is most favourable to the applicant - whether truthful or not. For example, they indicate that an applicant is married when they are in fact single, that they are working when they are unemployed, and they sometimes procure fraudulent documents to back up the status.
FIXERS AND FRAUD
No one should ever put false information on a visa application as that is immigration fraud and makes you permanently inadmissible to the US. That inadmissibility can only be overcome with a waiver. In some cases, the US Embassy will also alert the local police if the fraud involves documents. It is not enough to escape the fraud to say that you paid someone to complete the visa application and do not know what they wrote.
You the applicant are the ultimate person responsible for the answers on your application. Nevertheless, there are times when some of these visa fixers are found and charged.
You should apply for your visa with your university acceptance letter and any other documents to show that you will be attending university at the start of the new school year. Answer all the questions truthfully and it will be up to the decision of the consular officer processing your application whether you are granted the visa.
If you are denied, remember that you can always reapply when your situation changes. Although you want to travel to the US this summer, if you are not granted the visa, there is always tomorrow. Too many applicants live in the moment and only think of travelling this year and not how their lives can change in a few years to allow the approval of a visa.
Congratulations, and all the best in your studies.
- Dahlia A. Walker-Huntington is a Jamaican-American attorney who practises immigration law in the United States; and family, criminal and personal injury law in Florida. She is a mediator, arbitrator and special magistrate in Broward County, Florida; and an adjunct professor at Miami Dade College's School of Justice. firstname.lastname@example.org