US nonimmigrant visa filings in Jamaica increase by 117 per cent

According to the Counsellor for Public Affairs at the US Embassy in Jamaica, Joshua Polacheck, applications for US non-immigrant visas – mainly the B-1 business visitor visa and B-2 visitor for pleasure, but also including work visas such as the E-1 treaty trader and E-2 treaty investor visas and L-1 intra-company transfer visas - have increased by a staggering 117 per cent. The US Embassy, based in Jamaica’s capital city, Kingston, is processing a high volume of non-immigrant visa cases at a rate of a thousand a day.

Polacheck said: “From US Fiscal Year 2013 to Fiscal Year 2016, the number of applications increased by a whopping 117 per cent, rising from 85,000 per year to 185,000 per year.”

Speaking to the Cayman Reporter a local Cayman Islands publication, Polacheck discussed the delays in dealing with US nonimmigrant visa applications at the US Embassy affecting residents of Cayman.

Despite scheduling up to 1,000 appointments per day in a bid to deal with the large volume of applications there are no visa appointments left until 2017. Polacheck said: “The number on any particular day is based on the number of consular officers available to conduct interviews. Those appointments we have opened for the remainder of the year are currently filled.”

US Embassy doing what it can to accommodate emergency US visa requests

In the midst of the backlog, Polacheck did stress that the US Embassy is doing ‘everything in its power to accommodate special emergency requests.’ He said: “If someone has travel plans that fall before the first available appointment, she or he can explain the situation when requesting an expedited appointment and we will do our best to accommodate these requests.”

The US Embassy in Kingston processed more than 160,000 nonimmigrant visas and 15,000 immigrant visas according to data for 2015. Data for 2016 is not yet available, but the numbers are expected to be significantly higher.

Of the data available, it’s understood that the Cayman Islands accounted for less than 5 per cent of the total number of nonimmigrant visa applications processed by the US Embassy. Both Jamaica and the Cayman Islands come under the jurisdiction of the US Embassy in Kingston.

However, depending on nationality for visits to the US applicants may qualify to travel under the visa waiver pilot programme using the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA). If they’re not eligible for ESTA, the US Embassy deals with visa applications for residents of the Cayman Islands.

US B-1/B-2 Visit Visa Waiver Pilot Program

Currently, the Cayman Islands is not included in the US visit visa waiver pilot program (VWP). To be considered for inclusion in the programme, a set of stipulations must be met including:

  • Enhanced law enforcement and security-related data sharing with the United States
     
  • A visitor visa refusal rate of less than three percent
     
  • A commitment to maintain timely and accurate reporting of both blank and issued, lost and stolen passports
     
  • An infrastructure to issue e-Passports

In addition a Country would need to meet US standards for counter terrorism, law enforcement, border control, and document security.

Polacheck said: “Designation as a VWP country is at the discretion of the US government. Meeting the objective requirements of the VWP does not guarantee a country will receive VWP designation.”

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