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Dos and don'ts for US visas
Dr Arun C Vakil |
January 19, 2006
In Part One of this feature, we looked at what defines a Visitor Visa and what you can do to initiate the process of getting one. Now, we tackle details such as fees, documentation and why you should never exert pressure on a consular officer.
If you are a resident of India, you are required to appear for an interview at the visa section having jurisdiction over the area where you have been living for the last six months.
If you have lived in your new location for less than 6 months, then you need to go to the place listed as your permanent address. This is especially applicable when people move for, say, further studies or a new job.
Indian citizens living in the US and applying for a new visa to replace an expiring one can request an appointment at any of the four visa sections in New Delhi, Chennai, Mumbai and Kolkata.
~ Completed non-immigrant visa (NIV) application Form DS-156. All male visa applicants between the ages of 16 and 45 should also fill out DS-157 along with DS-156.
Guidelines for filling the form:
i. Ensure that you fill all the boxes. Write NA, None or Nil where not applicable. Fill the form with a black ballpoint pen.
ii. All applicants above the age of 14 must sign their application form. Where the applicant is less than 14 years old, either parent can sign.
iii. Make sure the photo is affixed.
iv. Mention the address where you have been living for the last six months. It can differ from your permanent address mentioned in the passport.
v. Be specific in describing your occupation: e.g. software engineer, trader in chemicals, manager in travel company, MD of pharmaceutical company. It is not enough to just write 'Business' or 'Service'.
Photograph to be affixed
i. The photograph should be 2 x 2 inches or 37 mm x 37 mm, colour or black and white, against a light or plain background. The visa applicant must look directly at the camera; he or she should not be looking down or to the side.
ii. The face should be at least 50 per cent of the photo area.
iii. Both ears have to be visible. Photos with ears covered for religious reasons may be accepted only if the applicant objects to exposing the ears for religious reasons.
iv. The photograph should not be more than six months old.
v. Head coverings and hats are permitted only for religious purposes -- photos of military, airline and other personnel wearing headgear are not acceptable.
vi. Sunglasses, traditional face masks or veils that detract from the face or conceal portions of it are not acceptable.
This is desirable to justify one's return to India.
~ Evidence substantiating the purpose of your trip, intent to depart from the US after a temporary visit and arrangements made to cover costs of stay in the US and your return home. The purpose of this evidence is to show you can be classified in the visitor category.
~ In case of persons travelling to the US for pleasure, such evidence may consist of a statement by the applicant outlining his plans while in the US and explaining the reasons why he will return home after a short stay, such as family ties, financial ties, employment of similar binding obligations in India.
~ Other evidence that may be presented includes letters of invitation from relatives or friends in the US whom the applicant plans to visit; confirmation of participation in group tours, etc. Notarised affidavits of support (Form I-134) from a sponsor in the US may be used in certain visitor visa cases.
~ Sponsorship documents from the US are a must for a visitor not having any other source of funds while in the US.
~ A roundtrip airline ticket is normally not required for the visa interview.
Documents that may prove non-immigrant intent may consist of one or more of the following:
~ Evidence of bank balance through passbook/s, fixed deposit receipts and share investments.
~ Evidence of payment of income tax to the Government of India.
~ Evidence of current employment or business in India to which the applicant will return after the US visit.
~ Property documents or evidence of ownership of real estate and valuation of such property.
~ Any other property in the applicant's name like house, flat, land, car, jewellery, etc.
~ Close family ties in India like spouse, fiancée, children and dependent parents living in India.
Property deeds or CA statements are now discouraged on the grounds of their unreliability in the Mumbai consulate, whereas they are accepted at the Chennai consulate.
Depending on where you are, you need to find out the preferences of the consulate concerned to prepare these documents. The decision regarding choice of consulate depends on your permanent address. Visit www.visa-services.com to help you decide the location of the US consulate nearest to your place of residence, as well as the consulate's preferences.
For visitor visa applicants who don't speak English, translators in Gujarati, Hindi, Marathi, Urdu, Malayalam and Konkani are available. You must ask for a translator of the language of your choice when you enter the consulate premises.
Restrictions applicable to recipients of Visitor Visas
An visitor who enters the US on a B-1 or B-2 visa (for pleasure or business) is not allowed to accept employment in the US.
A visitor who accepts employment or who remains in the US beyond the period for which he has been granted permission to stay violates the terms of his visitor status. He will be regarded as an 'illegal or undocumented alien' and becomes subject to deportation. It is illegal if you stay beyond your visa tenure, and you will sent back to your country.
If you have been deported and your next visitor visa application is refused, you can reapply. The US consulate gives an opportunity to once rejected applicants to reapply if they are in a position to prove their intent to return to India. An applicant can reapply any number of times after every rejection if he has new evidence to prove he is not an intending immigrant. Each time, however, the visa fee has to be paid.
Application fee (MRV fee) and service charge
When going to HDFC Bank, carry with you a photocopy of the first page of your passport. If you are an Indian citizen living in the US, you need to fax a copy of this page to the person in India assisting you to obtain a Visa Fee Receipt.
The fees payable at HDFC per application are:
i. Visa Application Fee (MRV Fee): $100 in Indian rupees equivalent to the consular rate of exchange. This fee is payable in cash or by DD/HDFC cheque favouring 'US Embassy - Visa Fees'. DDs issued by co-operative banks are not accepted.
ii. VFS' Service Charge: Rs 276 (inclusive of Service Tax @ 10 per cent and Education Cess Tax @ 0.2 per cent). This fee is payable in cash or by DD/ HDFC cheque favouring 'HDFC Bank a/c VFS'. DDs issued by co-operative banks are not accepted.
The fee receipt gets activated two working days from the date of issue. Do not attempt to take an appointment till then. Also, the above fees are not refundable.
HDFC Bank's fee receipt can be used to make an appointment within a year from the date of issue. The receipt is deemed utiliszed once the interview has taken place, and cannot be used to make a subsequent appointment.
Visa Issuance Fee: This is payable after the consular officer has confirmed that the visa has been issued. Pay only by a demand draft favouring the 'US Embassy, New Delhi' or 'American Consulate General, Mumbai (or Chennai or Kolkata)' as applicable. The DD should be drawn on the city where the interview is being held. DDs issued by cooperative banks are not acceptable. The issuance fee amount is $50, payable in Indian rupees equivalent to the consular rate of exchange.
Applicants applying for a visa class for which an issuance fee is payable must carry a DD for the issuance fee with them to the interview. In case a visa is refused, the applicant will have to subsequently cancel the DD to reclaim the amount.
If a visa is authorised, the issuance fee will have to be paid immediately at the visa section, failing which the visa will not be issued. This amount is non-refundable once the visa has been issued.
Please note: The above-described documents are 'suggestive' in nature and should not be considered as legal requirements. Each individual case is different and, each applicant must decide what evidence is appropriate.
Do not attempt to exert pressure
The consular officer who interviews you has the final say in your matter. The Indian way of doing things invariably prompts a rejected applicant to represent his case to the 'boss' of the visa section, or the US consul general or US ambassador in Delhi or those involved with Indo-American affairs.
Many approach US congressmen and senators for their visa cases. Some also approach the governor or chief minister of the state or an MP to exert pressure.
None of these tactics work.
On the contrary, you are likely to create unwarranted paperwork in your case and may be delaying it if you have a chance to get a visa under normal circumstances.
Same policy worldwide
You have to apply to the US consulate under whose jurisdiction you reside permanently. If you are refused in Mumbai and then try again at the consulates in Delhi or Chennai or Dubai, you are most likely to be referred back to Mumbai.
All data while applying for the first time and details of answers given in your interview are computerised and maintained.
In case of a heavy rush, applicants from Chennai can apply at the Delhi embassy, provided they were not refused US visas in the past and can communicate in good English.
All the best with your attempt. If you follow the guidelines to the letter, getting that visa shouldn't be a problem.
Part I: How to ensure you get your US visa
The author is a US visa and immigration consultant based in Mumbai.