US Embassy warns against 'visa fixing'
Sheldon Williams, Staff Reporter
The United States (US) Embassy in Kingston has launched a campaign to discourage applicants for American visas from accepting the help of persons described as visa fixers.
Visa fixers are persons who hang about the embassy and inveigle applicants to allow them to lend a helping hand in the visa application process.
Consul General Mike Schimmel said the fixers "concentrate on the area near the embassy, sometimes approaching applicants who have been denied a visa or who look vulnerable to their pitch".
Schimmel said the practice was not limited to the vicinity of the embassy, but takes place islandwide.
"There are fixers who operate throughout the country, plying their trade on applicants who are unaware that the visa process does not require the elaborate pretences that the fixers make them favour," he told The Gleaner.
The embassy's campaign, which seeks to alert applicants to the risk involved in using the visa fixers, is designed to encourage applicants to use the right resources to support their applications - the information that is contained on the official embassy website.
The visa section of the embassy processes between 600 and 700 applications on any given day, some of which illustrate evidence of fixing.
"We have seen the influence of visa fixers regularly in our applicant pool," Schimmel explained.
He said the embassy is able to detect the practice as they have received information from some fixers who have been arrested and who have cooperated by sharing information.
"Additional information comes from applicants whose fraud has been detected. And we have information from travellers who were stopped at ports of entry by our Customs and Border Patrol agents."
He added: "These travellers have confessed to the use of fixers. We know how fixers operate based on what we've learned from their clients."
LIES NOT NECESSARY
Schimmel explained that fixed applications differ from legitimate paperwork as "fixers coach their clients to tell believable lies".
"In most cases, the lies aren't necessary. A truthful application is the best application, and a deceitful one may cost you a lifetime of ineligibility," he said.
Schimmel added: "The right way is to avail yourself of the information offered on our website, www.kingston.usembassy.gov, and prepare for your interview accordingly."
Last year, the rate of approval exceeded 70 per cent. Denial is not permanent - so long as it was not as a result of fraud.