US moves to ease visa acquisition


If you have ever received a United States visa and it expired, you could soon not have to pay a re-application fee or go through the rigorous process of acquiring one.

But this will only happen when the US government’s departments of State and Homeland Security finalise plans to speed up the process for foreign travellers to that country, President Barack Obama has said.

In a January 19 White House statement, Mr Obama announced a new visa pilot programme that will “simplify and speed up the non-immigrant visa process for certain applicants, including the ability to waive interviews for some very low-risk applicants” seeking to renew a visa.

Currently, even before one applies for a non-immigrant visa, you have to pay $140 (about Shs350,000) through Centenary Bank before booking interview appointments online or through phone calls. Machine Readable Visa fees range between $140 and $390.

Mr Obama said since the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, the United States has implemented “an intensive, multi-layered visa screening process, including multiple biographic and biometric checks, all supported by a sophisticated global information technology network.” The White House said the US performs these checks on every visa applicant without exception.

No interviews
But under the initiative, special circumstances may allow qualified foreign visitors who were interviewed and thoroughly screened as part of a prior visa application to renew their visas without undergoing another interview.

“Eliminating interviews for these applicants will save them time and money and encourage them to choose the US again as their tourism destination,” a White House fact sheet on the initiative said, adding that it will also free up resources to interview more first-time applicants.

The programme is also set to make visa processing more efficient for certain categories of low-risk applicants, such as younger or older first-time applicants.
But it is not clear when the programme will be extended to Uganda. Efforts to reach Mr Daniel Travis, the public affairs officer at the US mission in Uganda, for comment were futile as he failed to answer our calls.

Mr Obama announced the pilot programme as part of a new executive order issued January 19, which emphasises expediting the visa process for emerging markets such as China, Brazil and India. Thus far, 36 countries have met the strict law enforcement and document security standards required for programme eligibility.




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