Fri | Aug 14, 2020

US Embassy could restart processing visas in 6 weeks

Published:Friday | June 5, 2020 | 3:11 PM

Nadine Wilson-Harris, Staff Reporter

United States Ambassador to Jamaica, Donald Tapia, says it could be another six weeks before the consular section at the embassy is reopened to the public for the processing of visa applications.

Tapia explained that the embassy has been 30 per cent operational because the second case of COVID-19 in Jamaica was linked to the consular section.

“It was a young lady who came from New York City and she came in and she was sick, so that’s when we shut down the consular section because she worked at the consular section and then throughout, we got a team fly in from Washington D.C that actually came through and cleaned the embassy,” he said during a live interview on the embassy’s Facebook page today.

Tapia said the embassy is being reopened in phases.

“We went from stage zero to stage one last week and we are working towards stage two, and for stage two, when we get there, which should be in the next 10 days, we will probably be at about 40 per cent operational totally, and then we will wait probably another two weeks or there to get to phase three,” he said.

He said at that point the consular section of the embassy should be about 65 to 75 per cent operational.

Currently, about 50 per cent of the embassy’s staff is working from home.

He said the embassy does not intend to issue any policy or guidelines to US tourists who will visit Jamaica when the island resumes travel for international passengers on June 15.

“The fact is, we are guests to Jamaica and Jamaica is the one that will set the protocols and so forth for all visitors coming to the island, so we will follow the protocols that they set for Jamaica and it will be directed to American visitors,” he said.

Meanwhile, Tapia said he is looking forward to visiting his children and grandchildren once travel restrictions are relaxed, noting that he hasn’t seen them for almost six months.

Tapia, who came to Jamaica in late August, said while his job does have some benefits, it is hard work.

“At the time, it sounded very glamorous,” he said before adding, “I probably worked harder in the last eight months here than I did in probably the last 20 years of my career.”

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