Visa to new vistas
From this Thursday, a new column, providing information about visas and other topics connected with the consular work of the United States Consulate General in Chennai, will feature in Metroplus.
THIS COLUMN, which will appear periodically, is the latest in a series of outreach programmes the consular section has initiated over the past five years. These outreach programmes have attempted to 1) dispel the many myths surrounding the visa process; and 2) make the visa process easier to understand and more transparent to the general public. I believe we have been successful in our efforts.
This particular aspect of our outreach programmes will include not only information about visas but also cover the many aspects of consular work undertaken by the United States Consulate General in Chennai. No matter how many times we speak at seminars, there are always questions about how to go about getting a visa. This first article will concentrate on the basic information that is needed to apply for a visa.
Just as any American wishing to visit India requires a visa, any citizen of India who wishes to visit the United States temporarily, must first obtain a visa. The Consular Section of the United States Consulate General in Chennai reviews over 200,000 applications for non-immigrant visas every year. Indians wishing to visit the United States for business or pleasure, just like applicants for U.S. visas in other countries, are required to present sufficient documentation to demonstrate their ties with India, a country of residence outside the United States. Why? Because U.S.
immigration law presumes that everyone who applies for a visa intends to live there permanently and is, therefore, ineligible for a non-immigrant visa, including a tourist or student visa. It requires applicants to establish to the satisfaction of the consular officer that they do not intend to remain permanently in the United States and that they will comply with the provisions of any temporary visa issued to them. In order to overcome this presumption and meet this burden of proving that they are qualified to receive a visa, applicants must prove that they have substantial social, family and economic ties to their home country as well as the financial resources for an expensive trip or course of study abroad. Only when an applicant has satisfied the consular officer that he or she will comply with the provision of the visa and return to his or her country of residence can they be issued a a visitor visa/non-immigrant visa.
It is important to note that the burden of proof is on the applicant. It is the applicant's responsibility to prove that he/she can pay for the trip, and has social or economic ties here in India strong enough to bring him/her back promptly. Documents that show the applicant's income and finances, the purpose of the trip, and the arrangements to cover the cost of the trip may help to convince the officer. It is impossible to specify the exact form such documentation or the evidence presented should take since each applicant's circumstances vary greatly. Each applicant must keep in mind that the interview will focus on his/her credibility and not on the documents presented.
If you are planning to apply for a non-immigrant visa to the U.S., stop and ask yourselves these questions: What is the purpose of my trip? What evidence can I show to demonstrate that I will return to India? What do I need to show that I can afford this trip? Once these basics are known, you still have to apply for your visa and you need to know what to bring for your visa interview in Chennai?
*All applicants, including children, must have a passport that is valid for at least six months.
*A fully completed and signed visa application form(s) (DS-156) that are available on the website http://madras.sphynx.com
*Up-to-date, original documents concerning your business, job, property, income, savings and tax returns. Bank statements must show all deposits and withdrawals for the last six months. Letters from banks, which only describe account balances or characters are not helpful.
*All applicants over the age of fourteen must appear in person, except for those qualifying for one of our personal appearance waiver programmes.
*One recent (taken within the past six months) colour passport-size photograph on a light background and showing the full face, preferably without head covering.
All MALE applicants between the ages 16 to 45 must also complete form DS-157.
*All F, J and M visa applicants must complete Form OF-158.
Someone said, "What's past is prologue." In that light, I hope that the changes initiated at the Consulate General over the past five years are indeed a prologue to future changes that will continue to make understanding the visa process clearer for everyone while meeting our obligation to protect the security of our borders.
(Chief of Consular Services)
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