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Consular Processing Notes

Via Department of State

Applicants for temporary work visas should generally apply at the American Embassy or Consulate with jurisdiction over their place of permanent residence. Although visa applicants may apply at any U.S. consular office abroad, it may be more difficult to qualify for the visa outside the country of permanent residence. As part of the visa application process, an interview at the embassy consular section is required for visa applicants from age 14 through 79. Persons age 13 and younger, and age 80 and older, generally do not require an interview, unless requested by embassy or consulate. To make an appointment for interview you will need to provide the receipt number that is printed on the approved Form I-129 petition. The waiting time for an interview appointment for applicants can vary, so early visa application is strongly encouraged. Visa wait times for interview appointments and visa processing time information for each U.S. Embassy or Consulate worldwide is available on our website at Visa Wait Times, and on most embassy websites. During the visa application process, usually at the interview, an ink-free, digital fingerprint scan will be quickly taken. Some visa applications require further administrative processing, which takes additional time after the visa applicant’s interview by a Consular Officer.

Required Documentation

For current fees for Department of State government services select Fees.

  • An application, Nonimmigrant Visa Application, Form DS-156, completed and signed. The DS-156 must be the March 2006 date, electronic “e-form application.”   Select Nonimmigrant Visa Application Form DS-156 to access the electronic version of the DS-156. Important Notice: At certain U.S. Embassies and Consulates abroad, nonimmigrant visa applicants are now required to apply visa using the new DS-160 Online Nonimmigrant Visa Electronic Application, instead of the nonimmigrant application forms DS-156, 157, 158, and other related forms. Learn more and find out which Embassies have converted to the DS-160 Online process. 
  • A Supplemental Nonimmigrant Visa Application, Form DS-157 provides additional information about your travel plans. Submission of this completed form is required for all male applicants between 16-45 years of age. It is also required for all applicants from state sponsors of terrorism age 16 and over, irrespective of gender, without exception. Four countries are now designated as state sponsors of terrorism, including Cuba, Syria, Sudan, and Iran. Select Special Processing Procedures to learn more. You should know that a consular officer may require any nonimmigrant visa applicant to complete this form. Here is Form DS-157.
  • A passport valid for travel to the United States with a validity date of at least six months beyond the applicant’s intended period of stay in the United States (unless country-specific agreements provide exemptions). If more than one person is included in the passport, each person desiring a visa must make an application.
  • As part of the visa application process, an interview at the embassy consular section is required for almost all visa applicants. Thewaiting time for an interview appointment for applicants can vary, so early visa application is strongly encouraged. During the visa interview, an ink-free, digital fingerprint scan will be quickly taken, as well as a digital photo. Some applicants will need additional screening, and will be notified when they apply.
  • One (1) 2×2 photograph. See the required photo format explained in nonimmigrant photograph requirements .

Other Documentation

To schedule the interview appointment, you will need the receipt number that is printed on the approved Form I-129 petition. NOTE: During your interview, the consular officer will use the receipt number to verify the Form I-129 petition approval. Therefore, Form I-797 is no longer used to verify petition approval, and is no longer necessary for your visa interview. With the exception of the H-1 and L-1, applicants may also need to show proof of binding ties to a residence outside the United States which they have no intention of abandoning. It is impossible to specify the exact form the evidence should take since applicants’ circumstances vary greatly.

Legal Rights and Protections for Employment (H1-B, H2-A and H2-B) or Education-based Nonimmigrants

Recent changes to U.S. law relate to the legal rights of employment-based nonimmigrants under Federal immigration, labor, and employment laws, and the information to be provided about protections and available resources. As a temporary visitor to the U.S., it is important that you are aware of your rights, as well as protections and resources available when you come to work or study here. Review the Nonimmigrant Rights, Protections and Resources pamphlet, Online version or Printer double-sided version.

Entering the U.S. – Port of Entry

A visa allows a foreign citizen coming from abroad, to travel to the United States port-of entry and request permission to enter the United States. Applicants should be aware that a visa does not guarantee entry into the United States. The Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials have authority to permit or deny admission to the United States.  If you are allowed to enter the U.S., the CBP official will determine the length of your visit on the Arrival-Departure Record (Form I-94). Since Form I-94 documents your authorized stay in the United States, it is very important to keep in your passport. In advance of travel, prospective travelers should review important information aboutAdmissions/Entry requirements, as well as information related to restrictions about bringing foodagricultural products or other restricted/prohibited goods explained on the Department of Homeland Security, Customs and Border Protection website. Upon arrival (at an international airport, seaport or land border crossing), you will be enrolled in the US-VISIT entry-exit program. In addition, some travelers will also need to register their entry into and their departure from the U.S. with the Special Registration program.

Additional Information

Family Members

With the exception of “Q-1 Cultural Exchange Visitors,” the spouse and unmarried, minor children of an applicant under any of the above classifications may also be classified as nonimmigrants in order to accompany or join the principal applicant. A person who has received a visa as the spouse or child of a temporary worker (a petition-based NIV), may not accept employment in the United States (with the exception of spouses of L-1 visa holders – L-2 spouses may engage in employment with an “employment authorized” endorsement or appropriate work permit.) The principal applicant must be able to show that he or she will be able to support his or her family in the United States.

Time Limits

All of the above classifications have fixed time limits in which the alien may perform services in the United States. In some cases those time limits may be extended by USCIS in order to permit the completion of the services. Thereafter, the alien must remain abroad for a fixed period of time before being readmitted as a temporary worker under any classification. USCIS will notify the petitioner on Form I-797 whenever a visa petition, an extension of a visa petition, or an extension of stay is approved under any of the above classifications. The beneficiary may use a copy of Form I-797 to make an appointment to apply for a new or revalidated visa during the validity period of the petition. The approval of a permanent labor certification or the filing of a preference petition for an alien under the H-1 or L classifications shall not be a basis for denying a visa.

Further Inquiries

Questions about filing a petition, qualifications for various classifications, or conditions and limitations on employment should be made by the prospective employer or agent in the United States to the nearest USCIS office. Questions about filing a visa application at a consular section abroad should be addressed to the appropriate consular office abroad. Inquiries about visa cases in progress overseas should contact the appropriate U.S. Embassy or Consulate  handling your case.

US consulate denies H1B visa curtailment for Indians

“US Consulate General, Hyderabad, Cornelis M Keur addressing media persons at the ‘meet the press’ programme organised by Press Club Hyderabad said that due to economic slowdown the world over, the US government has taken a decision to tie up its unemployment problem which is nine per cent. But, there was no significant change in visa policy. “We continue to issue H1B visas with little more scrutiny,” Keur said.
He said that, at the same time, the US government has framed a policy for the companies to give preference to native Americans in employment.
Obama administration has taken up a practical approach in establishing relations with the countries while there were efforts in strengthening relations with India because of the “Brain Borrowing”, he said.
Keur said there are 3 million Indians in the US who are contributing to its prosperity specially mentioning about the Andhraites who marked their presence in various fields in the US including IT.
Keur said the Hyderabad Consulate, the fourth in the country was established due to the growing trade and development in the state in the IT, biotechnology and pharma sectors.”

The Closing of the American Border: Terrorism, Immigration and Security Since 9/11: A book written by Edward Alden, Former Washington bureau chief of the Financial Times


A book written by Edward Alden,
Former Washington bureau chief of the Financial Times was
published yesterday by HarperCollins.  It will be of great interest
to readers of this blog. The book is entitled The Closing of the American
Border: Terrorism, Immigration and Security Since 9/11
. It tells the
story of the internal battles within the Bush administration after 9/11
over how far to go in tightening U.S. borders in what was often a misguided
effort to keep out terrorists. That story is interspersed with many personal
tales of innocent people who got caught up in the labryinth of post-9/11
restrictions. Mr.
Alden also makes a number of larger points about the damage that
has been done to the U.S. economy and to the country’s standing in the
world by the heavy-handed way in which border security measures have been

The book comes out of reporting the author did
after 9/11 while he was the Washington Bureau Chief for the Financial Times,
and well as more than a year of further research after he joined the Council
on Foreign Relations.

The book is available in bookstores,
and on Amazon at

You can also get a preview of some of
the chapters at:

Product Description from

“On September 10, 2001, the United States was the most open country
in the world. But in the aftermath of the worst terrorist attacks on
American soil, the U.S. government began to close its borders in an
effort to fight terrorism. The Bush administration’s goal was to build
new lines of defense against terrorists without stifling the flow of
people and ideas from abroad that has helped build the world’s most
dynamic economy. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out that way.

The Closing of the American Border
is based on extensive interviews with the Bush administration officials
charged with securing the border after 9/11, including former secretary
of homeland security Tom Ridge and former secretary of state Colin
Powell, and with many of the innocent people whose lives have been
upended by the new border security and visa rules. A pediatric heart
surgeon from Pakistan is stuck in Karachi for nearly a year, awaiting
the security review that would allow him to return to the United States
to take up a prestigious post at UCLA Medical Center. A brilliant
Sudanese scientist, working tirelessly to cure one of the worst
diseases of the developing world, loses years of valuable research when
he is detained in Brazil after attending an academic conference on
behalf of an American university.

Edward Alden goes behind the
scenes to show how an administration that appeared united in the
aftermath of the attacks was racked by internal disagreements over how
to balance security and openness. The result is a striking and
compelling assessment of the dangers faced by a nation that cuts itself
off from the rest of the world, making it increasingly difficult for
others to travel, live, and work here, and depriving itself of its most
persuasive argument against its international critics—the example of
what it has achieved at home.”

Answering reader mail: INA Section 214(b) issues in applying for Visitor/Student visas

INA Section 214(b) issues in applying for Visitor/Student visas

Dear Ashwin,
I wanted to bring my brother over to the US for Diwali, and I sent an invitation letter, but the consulate in Chennai turned him away. What do the consular officers look for in these situations, and what should we watch out for the next time I try to get a visitor’s visa for brother or parents? When can I reapply for him? 

Dear Lakshmi,
Section 214(b) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) states: “Every alien shall be presumed to be an immigrant until he establishes to the satisfaction of the consular officer, at the time of application for admission, that he is entitled to a nonimmigrant status…” In short, this section of the INA presumes every applicant for a visa to America intends to eventually reside in America. It is the burden of each applicant to demonstrate that this is not the case – that they only intend to visit America for a short duration. In qualifying for B (Visitor) F (Student) or J (Exchange Visitor) visas, an applicant must demonstrate compliance with this section of the law. Most refusals concern the requirement that the applicant possess or maintain a residence abroad that he has no intention of abandoning. Applicants thereby demonstrate that they have ties abroad that would compel them to leave the U.S. at the end of the temporary stay. The INA places this burden of proof squarely on the applicant. (Note that these requirement do not apply to H or L Visa holders who may maintain ‘dual-intent’). 

Consular officers have the last word in deciding who may enter the US and evaluate each applicant for a non-dual-intent visa (B, F, J among others) to determine whether the applicant has strong ties abroad. Some examples of ties can be a job, a house, a family, and a bank account. These ties bind you to your home country and demonstrate that you will return after your trip to America. Despite the fact that consular officers attempt to provide a case-specific evaluation, they have limited time allotted to each client. It is imperative that you have a well documented and organized petition which demonstrates the strength of your applicant’s case by providing evidence of the applicant’s strong ties. Unfortunately, as you can imagine, these requirements are somewhat harder to prove for younger applicants. 

You should also attempt to provide documentation of why the visa applicant is coming to the United States. Temporary trips of a short duration (less than six months) for a specified period of time with a clearly defined start and end date (such as a marriage or graduation) are more likely to be approved. Remember that an invitation letter and evidence of funds of the American ‘sponsor’ are of limited benefit to the applicant – the consular officer is mainly concerned with the qualifications of the applicant themselves. 

Your brother can attempt to enter the US again since a denial under section 214(b) is not permanent, however, the more times an individual is turned down the harder it becomes to become eligible for subsequent approvals. The consular officer will only reconsider a case if an applicant can show further convincing evidence of ties outside the United States. The applicant’s situation must have substantially changed since the last application. Demonstration of strong ties is still key. 

Little India Interview with Peter Kaestner, Minister Counselor for Consular Affairs at the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi

Via Little India


Allison Hanken

For the half million Indians who run the bureaucratic maze at U.S. consulates every year, U.S. Ambassador David C. Mulford’s announcement in October in New Delhi pledging to “reduce the waiting time for a visa appointment with the goal of eliminating this waiting period altogether,” was as startling as it was monumental.

Ambassador Mulford greeting applicants at the embassy

Visa applicants, who typically waited for months on end for an appointment, are now greeted on the embassy’s website with the surprising greeting: “Visa appointments are now available in all categories.”

Mulford explained: “Nothing is more important for the future of our two countries than the strong and growing bond of business and people-to-people contact. Strengthening these connections is the future of U.S.-Indian relations and we have begun this today.”
In an exclusive interview with Little India, Peter Kaestner, U.S. Consul General, sheds light on the new visa regime, bollywood, birding and butter chicken.

Ambassador Mulford’s comments have created quite the international buzz. Now that the commitment has been vocalized, how does the embassy plan to reduce and eventually eliminate the waiting time for visa appointments?

It is a simple plan. Starting September 25, we put all available resources on the NIV (Non Immigrant Visa) line. In addition to the mission’s resources, the Department of State supported us both financially and with additional vice consuls. We have temporary duty officers in India from as far away as Bogota, Hermosillo, Tokyo, Hong Kong and London. Between September 25 and October 23 we increased our visa production 52 per cent. The backlog for appointments for non-immigrant visas has essentially been eliminated. There are appointments available all over India.

Do these changes apply to immigrant and non-immigrant visas?

The initial push was directed at the NIV appointment backlog. Now that we have NIV appointments available, we are also looking at our IV (Immigrant Visa) processing too. Early next year, we intend to examine all our interactions with the public with the intention to making them more efficient and customer friendly.

Can you give us a sense of what the average waiting period was for the most common visa categories and what it is now?

When we started our NIV appointment elimination push on September 25, ordinary tourist appointments had a six-month backlog. Business Executive Program appointments could be obtained in three to four weeks and students were able to get emergency appointments at any time. At present, there are no waiting periods. All visas appointment categories are available. Because of some processing peculiarities, Mumbai visa applications must be handed in to our appointment provider five days in advance. Therefore, there is a delay in Mumbai until we find another way to process the cases differently. (We are exploring this option.)

Certain IV categories, including Limited Family Based visas and H visas, have annual entry allowances. How will the revisions affect the wait times and/or number of allocations?

The limitations that you hrefer to are congressionally mandated. Only a change in legislation will increase those numbers. Eliminating the backlog will allow all applicants, including those on numerically controlled visa categories, to get an interview more expeditiously.

Continue reading

Travellers report no problems at US Immigration (Bermuda)

Via The Royal Gazette

By Tim Smith

The first day of new US passport regulations appeared to go smoothly at Bermuda Airport yesterday.
Under new rules drawn up in the wake of the 9/11 terror strikes, US-bound Bermudian travellers now have to present a passport to enter America.

From midnight yesterday, in order to benefit from the visa waiver allowed under US law for Bermudians, passports must have a Bermuda Status Stamp.

The move has led to such a crush of Bermudians rushing into the Office of Immigration over the past few months that Ministry officials are considering a permanent change to the way the official Register of Bermudians is kept.
However, commuters and their families and staff at the airport said there had been no teething problems in the first day of the new system.

More than 30,000 Bermudians have filed through the Ministry offices for the new stamp since the United States Department of Homeland Security announced the new travel regulations last November.

American visas to Indians set to zoom

Via rediff News
December 18, 2006 10:22 IST

With Indo-US bonhomie at its best, the United States is all set to
grant entry visas to a record number of Indians in the months to come.

September and October this year, the first two months of the US fiscal,
the US has issued 78 per cent more visas to Indians than in the same
two months of last year. In fact, the US consular operations have had
to requisition staff from all over the world to cope with the
additional work.

Indians have bagged no less than 30 per cent of
the visas granted by the US worldwide for skilled temporary workers.
Last fiscal, over 127,000 such visas were issued to Indians. And at
over 80,000, India has the largest number of foreign students in the
US. In fiscal 2006, 24,622 Indian students got a US visa — a 32 per
cent increase over the previous year.

The US issued 358,734
temporary visas in fiscal 2006, up 14 per cent from 313,800 in the
previous year. This was in addition over 30,000 immigrant visas. India
is now second only to Mexico among all countries for visa demand.

all began in September this year, when David Mulford, the US ambassador
to India, made a commitment to eliminate the visa backlog at the
earliest, keeping with the US policy of ‘Secure Borders, Open Doors.’

May 2007, the US is planning to achieve equilibrium between visa demand
and processing facility in India. Thus, a new US consulate general
building in Mumbai will be ready by 2008. The investment: a cool $100

Another $20 million renovation at Delhi will see 10 new
visa interviewing windows. Hyderabad will have a 15-window consular
operation by 2008. While the Kolkata workspace will be doubled in 12
months, six additional interviewing windows are planned in Chennai this

Naturally, airlines are falling over each other to get a piece of the action.

traffic between India and the US was 2.1 million passengers in 2005-06;
it is projected to rise by at least 15 per cent in the current year.
The average load factor on Air-India’s 28 weekly flights to the US is
as high as 85 per cent.

Several airlines, including state-owned
Air-India and American Airlines, are planning to start non-stop flights
between India and the US. Jet Airways plans to get into the market by
August 2007, while Kingfisher is working on its local feeder network
for its US operations, which it hopes to begin some time in 2008.

US visa appointment slots hiked to 30,000 at the US Consulate in Chennai

Via Rediff News
October 19, 2006

Taking serious note of the vast backlog for US visa appointments, the
US Consulate in Chennai has added 30,000 visa appointments till the end
of this year, Peter Kaestner, Minister Counsellor of US Consular
Affairs, New Delhi, said on Thursday.

said the number of visa appointment slots was being increased in a bid
to streamline the US visa application process and to reduce the
long-waiting time for applicants.

“The US Consulate General is
not satisfied with the long-waiting time for visa appointments, as much
as the applicants. The headquarters at Washington has sanctioned more
resources in the form of money and extra personnel to quicken the
process of visa issuance,” Kaestner informed the media.

order to enable better service, the US consulate was strongly urging
the applicants, who had obtained appointment slots in 2007, to advance
their appointments to this year.

As many as 500 slots are
available every day and these can be used to eliminate the backlog in
issuing visas, he said.  This year alone, over 1,25,000 visa
applications were received from all over the country and another 40,000
appointment requests had already been made for 2007, he said.

has been an increase of 19 per cent in the number of visas issued in
the last budgetary year when compared to the previous year, with
1,20,000 issuances in 2004-05 increasing to over 1,43,000 in 2005-06,”
Kaestner said.

“The US Consulate receives fraudulent visa
applications in which the applicant supplies false documents in the
form of school leaving certificates, bank documents and university
degrees,” Kaestner said. He attributed this to the wrong information
being provided to the applicants by people posing as visa agents, about
the documents required.

“Even legitimate applicants have to be
denied visas because they follow the advice of such agents. In reality,
very few documents are required to be attached with a visa application
and the specifications are available in the website”,
Kaestner said.

Voicing concern over this fraudulent activity, he
said that the number of fake applications was large enough to intervene
in the smooth processing of visas. Over 80,000 students from India were
pursuing higher education in America of which 12,000 were from South
India alone.

The number of student visas had increased steadily
and last year registered the highest number of student visas, Kaestner
said. Compared to 2004-05, the last financial year recorded a 20 per
cent increase in the number of student visas, he said.

that Chennai topped the country in the highest number of visa
applications, he said the city was way ahead of all other states in
eliminating the backlog.