By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
APPLYING for a US visa has just got much easier – for Trinidadians and Tobagonians.
The US Ambassador to Trinidad and Tobago, Joe Mondello, announced this week that under certain conditions Trinbagonians will no longer have to sit for interviews to renew their visas.
Currently, Bahamians do not have the same benefit. “I asked my people to look into this,” Foreign Affairs Minister Darren Henfield told The Tribune, noting how good the benefit would be.
Mr Mondello, in a video, said: “I’m pleased to announce that the embassy’s consular section has initiated a new service for visa applicants that makes it much easier and much more convenient for our Trinbagonian friends to renew their visas. It’s called interview waiver and it means exactly that. If your tourist visa is expiring or has been expired for less than a year you no longer have to come to the embassy for an interview. All you have to do is fill out your application online before your visa is expired more than a year. The application process will automatically let you know if you qualify for an interview waiver." The online visa application will advise applicants if they qualify for an interview waiver. The programme applies to people seeking temporary business and tourism visas, or B1/B2. The programme exists in Barbados and Jamaica as well.
First-time applicants in Trinidad and Tobago will still be required to sit for interviews.
Bahamians enjoy other travel-related benefits to the US. Unlike nationals of many other countries in the region, they can travel to the US with a police record from local preclearance facilities.
US interview waiver programmes have been around since 2011. However, American President Donald Trump signed an executive order in 2017 suspending the programme pending review.
The Bahamas has not had a US ambassador since Nicole Avant ended her tenure in 2011. President Trump nominated Doug Manchester, a real estate developer and billionaire, for the post in May, 2017. Mr Manchester has had to be renominated, however, and the status of his appointment is not clear. Stephanie Bowers is the current Chargé d'Affaires.