USA Immigration: Visa Processing in the Bahamas
This article examines nonimmigrant visa processing at the U.S. Embassy in Nassau, The Bahamas.
U.S. Embassy in Nassau, The Bahamas
Location and Process
The U.S. Embassy in Nassau, The Bahamas, is responsible for the adjudication of immigrant and nonimmigrant visas for nationals of The Bahamas, as well as Turks and Caicos. Per its website, the consular section is located on the ground floor of the embassy building at 42 Queen Street in Nassau, just off Marlborough Street.
The consular section processes the following visa types: B (visitor), C (transiting in United States), D (crewmember), E (treaty trader/investor), F/M (student), H (temporary worker), I (media/journalist), J (exchange visitor), L (intracompany transferee), O (person of extraordinary ability), P (internationally recognized athlete, artist, and/or entertainer), Q (international cultural exchange visitor), R (religious worker), T (victim of human trafficking), U (victim of criminal activity), and TD/TN (NAFTA professional).
The application process for a nonimmigrant visa in Nassau, The Bahamas, is as follows:
1. Complete the DS-160, Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application, and print the DS-160 Confirmation page;
2. Create a profile on the official U.S. Department of State Visa Appointment (CSRA) website and follow instructions to pay the visa processing fee at one of the local branches of Scotiabank Bahamas;
3. Schedule the visa interview appointment on the CSRA website. Note that requests for expedited processing are reviewed and adjudicated on a case-by-case basis, depending on the legitimate need;
4. Attend the visa interview; and
5. If approved, wait for U.S. Department of State to complete its administrative processing and return via courier the passport with the stamped visa.
The current wait time for a nonimmigrant visa interview in Nassau, per the Department of State’s website, is between one and four calendar days; however, these wait times are not always accurate. It is important to note that this is not a simple “complete a form and apply” process. It is helpful if an attorney is significantly involved, as the DS-160 application has numerous questions regarding the applicant’s prior residence and employment history, travels, and inadmissibility grounds.
The applicant’s failure to answer the DS-160 questions properly and in a manner consistent with the documentation submitted for the petition approval could result in a denial of the visa, revocation of the current visa, and/or charges of fraud or inadmissibility, which could bar a client’s future entry into the United States. Therefore, under the current U.S. administration’s enhanced vetting process, the attorney’s role in preparing the DS-160 application and preparing the client for the visa interview should be even greater. The U.S. Embassy in Nassau has a policy called the Interview Waiver Program, whereby those who are renewing a previous U.S. visa, or who meet certain age-related criteria, may qualify for a waiver of the visa interview. The client may be eligible to waive the interview if he/she meets the following criteria:
• Under the age of 14 or older than 79 years of age;
• Has a previous U.S. visa in the same class as the visa he/she seeks to renew;
• His/her fingerprints have been taken previously;
• Has no refusals for a visa in any category since the most recent visa issuance;
• If applying for a B-1/B-2 or C-1/D visa, the prior visa in the same classification is still valid or expired within the last twelve months; and
• The prior visa is not annotated “Clearance Received.”
In these particular cases, the waiver of the interview at the U.S. Embassy can be beneficial and convenient, and the embassy’s procedures should be followed thoroughly.
The term third-country national (TCN) refers to individuals who wish to apply for visas in countries that are not their country of origin. Often, clients (non-Bahamian nationals) already in the United States in lawful status whose renewal requests have been approved seek to process their visa stamps at U.S. Embassies in the Caribbean—for reasons of convenience and proximity to the United States, or because the U.S. Embassy in their home country is closed, or for purposes of efficiency as it may be faster to schedule a visa appointment in the Caribbean than in their home country. The U.S. Embassies in Canada and Mexico accept visa applications from third-country nationals under set policies and requirements. Similarly, the U.S. Embassy in Nassau specifically addresses on its website its policy regarding visa applications from TCNs. The Nassau Embassy will entertain only the following visa applications from TCNs:
• Petition-based F-1, H-1B, J-1, L-1, M-1, O-1, P-1, P-2, P-3, and R-1 renewals, only when initial adjudication was conducted in the applicant’s home country;
• Petition-based F-2, H-4, L-2, M-2, O-2, O-3, P-4, and R-2 renewals, only when the main applicant is renewing with the family member and the initial adjudication was conducted in the main applicant’s home country;
• B-1/B-2 – first time and renewals; and
• E3 – renewals only
Per similar guidelines, the embassy’s website will not accept any TCN applications for petition-based first-time applicants; E-1/E-2 visas; applicants who have been out of status in the United States, having violated the terms of their visas or overstayed; or applicants who entered the United States on one visa and are seeking to reenter the United States on a different visa.
Third-Country National Issues
The U.S. Embassy in Nassau also warns TCNs that applicants without a long-term, established connection to The Bahamas or the Turks and Caicos Islands will receive extra scrutiny in their visa applications. In addition, the three-to-five business day waiting period for a work-related visa is not guaranteed, and all third-country national applicants should expect delays in the adjudication of their visas. The Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM) also counsels consular officers who are receiving nonimmigrant visa applications from residents outside of the consular district “that an out-of-district applicant may alert you to possible fraud or, at the least, forum shopping.” It further states that consular officers should refuse the case under Section 214(b) of the Immigration and Nationality Act “if the applicant is applying for a visa category that requires that he or she demonstrate a residence abroad that he or she does not intend to abandon, and the applicant is unable to do so.”
These are all concerns that a practitioner should communicate to a non-Bahamian client when deciding where to process a nonimmigrant visa renewal. If the client wishes to proceed, then the attorney must play a significant role in this process. The TCN visa applicant should be prepared to explain why he or she is not applying for the visa in his or her home country. Also, the applicant should document extensively his or her ties to his or her home country, such as family ties, employment, business, property ownership, bank accounts, club memberships, etc. It is important to prepare the client to present the strongest possible case at the interview, as a consular officer’s decision to deny a visa application is not subject to administrative or judicial review.