News stories – New US visa application process aims to save money, red tape

This article was published on the Jerusalem Post website and newspaper on 9/12/2011 as part of my internship with The Jerusalem Post.

Travelling to the US just got cheaper and easier, thanks to a new visa application system that goes into effect on Monday.

With the new system, the applicant saves $70 and lots of red tape for both the US government and potential visitors. A US consulate official told The Jerusalem Post the change was meant to make it easier for people to apply by making it a “one-stop shop.”

The old system required applicants to buy an ID number, or PIN, from the consulate in Tel Aviv, which they would then use to book an appointment for an interview. The interview would determine whether they received the visa. There would be additional fees for getting information and for receiving the visa via courier.

Now, however, there will be a single payment for the entire process, including the ID number and courier services.

In addition, the original system required interaction with five different sections for a single application. Now only one is required.

The new system allows somebody to fill out an application on behalf of someone else, and unlike before, can now pay by credit card.

Anyone who has applied but hasn’t had their visa authorised yet will have their application passed through the old system, the consulate official explained.

According to the consulate press release, those who have already purchased PINs can still use them, as long as they book an interview by Sunday, December 11. If an appointment is not booked before this date, the PIN will expire, and the applicant will have to schedule an interview under the new system. Those with interviews already scheduled will not be affected by the change.

With the new system, applicants for non-immigrant visas must obtain a visa photo and then complete an online application that can be accessed at http://ceac.state.gov/genniv/. They will receive an ID number, which is required when scheduling an appointment. The confirmation form must be printed and presented at the interview.

Before the interview, the applicant must choose their preferred courier – UPS or Wassal – and give a delivery address via http://Jerusalem.usvisa-info.com. Israelis can pay in cash at Israel Post branches, and Palestinians at Bank of Palestine branches. Applicants can also pay by credit card online or via a call centre at (02) 567-7833. The fee is between $140 and $390 depending on the type of visa.

Applicants aged 14-79 must make an interview appointment in advance. Anyone outside that age bracket does not need to be interviewed and can send in their application by mail. Alternatively they can hand in their forms in to the consulate, but only if someone within the age bracket is also applying and has an appointment.

Applicants are notified on the spot, at the interview, whether they have successfully obtained the visa. However, the process can take longer if additional documents are required.

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