US Embassy Montego Bay outlet to cater to civilian demands
Barrington Flemming, Gleaner Writer
Holders of United States visas living in western Jamaica will soon no longer have to travel to the embassy in Kingston to have their visas renewed.
Head of American Citizens Services at the United States Embassy, Steven Brault, says it is moving to expand the services offered at its agency in Witter Village, Montego Bay, St James.
The Montego Bay facility currently caters to the needs of Americans.
Brault said the expansion will ultimately mean that once a person has been interviewed at the embassy, the information will be electronically stored and made available for use on request.
He said this would eliminate the need for persons living in the western end of the island to travel to Kingston to have their visas renewed.
"The application process is now going to be all electronic, so when people come into the embassy, biometrics will help authenticate you. So, coming in the not-too-distant future, once you have been granted a visa and you travel well, when it's time for that visa to be renewed, you will file forms electronically and, ultimately, soon you won't have to travel to Kingston," he said.
Brault, who was addressing the Montego Bay Chamber of Commerce and Industry Quarterly Luncheon at The Wexford Hotel, said the United States Embassy issued 120,000 non-immigrant visas and 10,000 immigrant visas to Jamaicans last year.
"In terms of population, this is major. I am really pleased to see that despite the recession, we issued more visas in Jamaica last year than ever before, despite the economic downturn," Brault affirmed.
The American Citizens Services chief also indicated that over the years, the United States consular services had revamped their systems and recruited additional personnel to mitigate against visa fraud.
Brault said Jamaica continued to register high for fraud but could not give specific data on that issue.
He said, however, that, as with other countries around the world, the embassy in Kingston has benefited from additional equip-ment to tackle fraud.