Live In The U.S. - January 0-, 2006 – 18: 0
Bahamians can enter lottery for U.S. Green Cards on-line.
As of today, the opportunity for Bahamians interested in living and working permanently in the United States will come again with the launching of the Diversity Visa programme promoted by the U.S. Embassy in The Bahamas.
According to Virginia Sher Ramadan, the new U. S. counsul general to The Bahamas and Turks and Caicos, every year the United States gives by way of a 'lottery' about 50,000 visas worldwide. She said the lottery for 2008 has begun and on-line applications are now being accepted until December 3. She advised that the only way for interested individuals to apply is on-line at www.dvlottery.state.gov.
Ramadan noted yesterday, during an interview with the Freeport News, that the website is the only legitimate place to apply and it costs nothing. She warned that any other internet site which suggests individuals to pay a fee to enter the lottery is a fraud.
"The only requirement is that you be from a country that can participate and The Bahamas can," Ramadan said. "We urge Bahamians to apply on-line because The Bahamas was actually the only country in North America eligible for the diversity visa last year and 12 Bahamian families were selected last year."
Commonly known as the 'Green Card,' the Diversity Visa allows persons from all over the world to become permanent residents of the United States. Ramadan said when applying individuals are required to fill out the necessary information and upload a photo of themselves. She said the form is very easy to fill out and once completed will be transmitted into a pool containing thousands of other applicants.
A computer will then randomly select the winners of the lottery who will then be granted the visas. Ramadan emphasized that the selection process will be broken down proportionately by geographic region so that there will be a certain number allocated to The Bahamas.
Speaking on the mandatory use of the Electronic Visa Application Form or EVAF, Ramadan said it is a very convenient, time-saving tool because since its inception, the U.S. Embassy in The Bahamas has been able to effectively process visa applications on a timely basis.
As of November 1, all applicants worldwide who wish to apply for tourist, student or other non-immigrant visas to the United States must complete the visa application form on the internet using the EVAF accessible through http://evisaforms.state.gov
In September 2003, the U.S. Department of States' Consular Affairs introduced the web-based non-immigrant visa (NIV) application form in lieu of the DS-156 and DS 156-156 paper application form. The EVAF allows applicants to fill out the NIV application on-line, print it out and bring it to the consular section or other data entry points. The EVAF prints out a bar-code which the consular sections can read in order to enter the applicant's information into the State Department's visa database.
Prior to that, Embassy staff had to type in the information from hand-written applications into their system. With the new requirement, they can simply scan the bar-code and immediately all of the data placed on the application form comes up in their software for visa issuance.
"It cuts down a lot of your time waiting around for the visa," she said. "When you go on-line you must print it out. This is extremely important because once you print it out, this will have an individual bar-code that you will have and if you don't come for the next month that is fine because it will always be associated with your application."
The U.S. counsul general said by the end of the month, the U.S. Embassy in New Providence will be opening up a renovated consular waiting area. She said the move is to better accommodate individuals applying on-line so that they can go directly to the visa or consular officers who will interview them, accelerating the waiting time to get the visa.
" So even though you must fly from Freeport to Nassau, at least you won't be waiting in line for a long time," she said.
Ramadan refuted reports of a proposed satellite facility in Freeport that will aid the efficient processing of visa applications without Grand Bahama residents having to travel to New Providence.
She clearly stated that the U.S. State Department will not be issuing visas anywhere in the world outside of an established consulate or Embassy.
She confirmed that at present, to her knowledge there is no thought being given to establishing a consulate in Freeport. She added that what has been discussed in recent months is having more visits by the consular officers in Nassau to Freeport to give out information or to communicate with people about the various services of the Embassy .
Ramadan said those applying for visas have to call via a 1-800 number to place themselves on an appointment schedule. However, consideration is being given to have persons sign up and have their appointment on-line. This she said is still pending for approval in the future.
"Unfortunately you will still have to come to Nassau to get your visa applications done because of the type of equipment we use," she said.
By LISA S. KING, Freeport News