Media persons briefed on US visa operations
US Consul General Brian Heath says there is nothing
mysterious or secret about the issuance of visas
Karachi: Members of the media were shown around the visa section of the US Consulate-General in town and briefed on the functioning of the section and provided details of the numbers and types of visa issued thus far, mostly in 2015 and 2016.
Brian Asmus, spokesperson for the Public Affairs Section at the US Consulate-General, told the media persons that the consulate had issued 14,000 visas to tourists, students, business travelers and workers in the first seven months of 2016.
Consular officers, he said, asked questions at interviews to evaluate the applicant’s eligibility under US law.
Asmus said that currently between 700,000 and one million US citizens were of Pakistani descent, making them the seventh largest group of US citizens.
He said that given these high immigration levels, Pakistanis did not qualify for the diversity visa which was granted to only those nations that had a low rate of immigration, like Australia and New Zealand.
He warned against being taken in by elements who claimed to help in getting such visas.
Mary Pellegrini, the Non-Immigrant Visa (NIV) chief, said that it was wrong to say that it was predetermined as to who would or who wouldn’t get a visa. This, she said, was a common misconception.
She said that they considered a set of probabilities which were given by the candidate during the interview and then extrapolated them to arrive at our inference.
The main thing that we considered while granting the visa or otherwise was as to whether the applicant had ties strong enough for him to come back to his country. She said that this was the main consideration around which the whole process pivoted.
She said it was up to the applicant to convince the visa officer that he/she would return and would not just stick on there.
She said, “We want to give all visa applicants fast, friendly and fair interviews so legitimate travellers can go to the United States, while still ensuring that we protect US citizens and visitors.”
Currently, she said, on average it took a day to get a visa appointment and most visas were processed and dispensed to the applicants within 48 hours.
Asmus told the mediafolk that the US diplomatic missions at Karachi and Islamabad issued 72,000 visas in 2015 while the number in 2014 was 64,000.
He said there was no restriction on the number of business, student or visitor visas that could be issued within a certain time limit while there was a limit on the number of immigrant visas for which there was a yearly quota.
Last year, he said, 14,400 Pakistanis emigrated to the US and over the last 10 years, 104,000 Pakistanis had been given US citizenship.
He said that the median income of a Pakistani American in the US was $63,000 while for the American families, it was $51,000.
Later, the journalists were taken on a round of the visa office where they were greeted by US Consul-General Brian Heath, who explained the working of the section to them. He said that there was nothing mysterious or secret about the issuance of the visas.