By Amar Guriro
KARACHI: The Consul General of the Consular Section at the United States Embassy Islamabad Christopher J Richard has said that the number of visa application that had dropped after a change in the laws following 9/11, have once again increased in the past two years.
“A big drop in the number of visas occured after 9/11. Not only the US visas, but several other countries have also made the same reduction as the laws became strict and new laws were introduced after 9/11. In the last two years, the number of applications that the US Embassy has received has increased,” he said in an interview with Daily Times held at the US Consulate Karachi. “The increasing visa applications can be gauged from the fact that in 2008, the US embassy in Islamabad issued 23,300 visas including 2,700 visas for students and exchange visitor, 1,700 temporarily work visa and 1,900 visas for senior officials,” he added.
Richard disclosed that US Embassy is planning to reopen the visa service at the Karachi consulate. “The issue of reopening visa services from Karachi remained on a priority basis but I cannot give a time frame regarding how many months it would take to be made functional,” he said.
Meanwhile, he added that the US Embassy always encourages people to apply for visas and to facilitate the visa applicants, US embassy usually conduct 160 interviews daily while in the summer session that starts from May 1, the number of interviews goes up to 200 everyday, he added.
When he was asked that people assume that the process to get a US visa is lengthy and takes lot of the time, he rejected the general assumptions and said that the visa process is easy and there is a certain time frame for different phases of the visas application process. “The first stage of the process is to get an appointment that usually takes seven days and after that the process runs for some 120 days and we do not make it lengthy. Instead we encourage more and more people to apply for US visa,” he said.
He added that if someone wants to get a visa, he or she must be fully prepared for an interview. The most important part of the process is to reply to the question as to why he or she wants to get a visa. “This question confuses a lot of people although it is not a difficult one. The purpose of the question is only to satisfy the visa officer,” he said. “Everything must be relevant and valid. For example, if questioned about the salary, the applicant must disclose the salary and not mention other details like the job description, educational background and other irrelevant information, otherwise it gets confusing” he said, adding that if anyone has difficulty in conversing in English language, he or she may take help from an interpreter for proper communication so that the process could be run properly. He also said that people must understand the questions that they are asked during the visa process so that they are able to respond appropriately and this will make their application process faster.
Richard further said that 4,000 schools, colleges of musicology, engineering, culture and other subjects from USA are offering admissions to students from around the world and thus the US embassies encourage students to apply for student visa. “If Pakistani students want to apply for visas in order to get admissions in US educational institutes, this is the right time to apply as the admissions in US schools and college will open as the visas application be processed. “The relevant material for visa process is available online and we really encourage Pakistani students and tourists to apply for visas, as tourists being lot of the ideas and cultural values,” he went on to add.