US Embassy addresses immigration visa approvals

From left: US Embassy's Public Affairs Officer Penny Rechkemmer and Vice Consul Jason Harms.

Obtaining a United States (US) non-immigration visa has seemingly become more difficult for Bahamians as the local US Embassy tightened its criteria to gain approval for its B1/B2 Visa.

US Embassy’s Vice Consul Jason Harms and Public Affairs Officer Penny Rechkemmer discussed the issuance of visas on Beyond the Headlines talk show with host Clint Watson on Tuesday.

The two embassy representatives highlighted the complete visa application processes and why some Bahamians may have difficulty in being approved for a visa.

“We do have border concerns and that is a concern of the United States,” Vice Consul Harms said.

“As far as the process itself, I would say some of the logistics and minutia have changed over the years but fundamentally I don’t think the process has changed.”

Harms said the US Embassy first investigates a person’s tie to the community stating that a strong indicator for approval is an applicant’s ties to their home country – “adequate ties to compel them to come home.”

According to Harms, multiple factors can affect one’s visa approval, which can mean different things for different people.

“Sometimes it might mean you recently graduated high school, or you recently graduated college, or in between job … during that time in your life when you’re trying to figure everything out and that can be a barrier,” Harms said.

“Someone can have a criminal ineligibility or criminal conviction in the past that might prevent them from getting a visa.”

Both US Embassy representatives confirmed that there are no restrictions against Bahamians entering the US.

However, according to them, Bahamian students in the past have overstayed their time in the US – oftentimes from their B1/B2 student visa. This overstay poses challenges for future Bahamian students.

Public Affairs Officer Penny Rechkemmer emphasised that students need to understand that when they get their visa, it is for that particular period of time for that particular school.

“We are that specific on the visa and if you change schools, you need to apply for a new visa to reflect that because when you travel and your school does not match your I-20, they (US officials) will question you,” Rechkemmer said.

The same applies to people that study in the United States for professional development.

“People need to cut that down, so we can continue to facilitate travels,” she said.

The primary criteria to be approved for an immigration visa:

  1. prove that you are a credible academic student
  2. prove you can afford the school of your choice, whether that’s through a guarantor, scholarship or personal funds and proof of this through financial documents.

Harms said that customs and border protection is ultimately responsible for who they decide to allow entry and departure from the United States.