Thank you, Ambassador Brewster, for that overview of what the Visa Application Center will mean for visa applicants. Nonimmigrant visa applicants, or those applying for “tourist” visas, will be the first to experience the new process, beginning November 12, 2014. Immigrant visa applicants, — those applying for “residency” visas — will continue with our current system until January 1, 2015. Detailed information about both the nonimmigrant and immigrant visa application processes will be available on our website.
As I’m sure that you have many questions right now about all the changes, please allow me to walk you through the new process for applying for a visa.
First, applicants need to fill out the online nonimmigrant visa application form, DS-160, through the Embassy website, which is the same as before. It is important to fill out that form correctly.
The second step is to create an online profile through the Visa Application Center’s website, where you will receive a payment confirmation with the amount that you will need to pay in Dominican pesos at Banco Popular.
For tourist and student visas, the fee will continue to be the equivalent of US$160 in pesos.
This fee will cover all visa application services, instead of paying separate fees to schedule the appointment, the interview, and document delivery. As the Ambassador has already noted, that will lower the cost for most applicants by at least $26.
The next step will be to visit our website to schedule a visa appointment or call the new call center. Most first-time visa applicants will need to schedule two appointments, one at the Visa Application Center at Galeria 360 mall and another at the U.S. Embassy for the visa interview.
Most of the time these appointments will be scheduled on separate days. However, we will make available some same-day appointments for applicants traveling from remote areas of the country, so that they would first visit the Visa Application Center and then come to the Embassy later the same day.
During the appointment scheduling, some applicants renewing their visa will discover that they only need a single appointment at the Visa Application Center to take fingerprints and a photo. Some applications will require no appointment or travel whatsoever. For example, renewal applicants who have already had all of their fingerprints taken electronically will be able to drop off their application and documents at any of twelve Mailboxes, Etc. locations around the country. The call center and customer service agents will also answer common questions about the visa application process free of charge.
The Visa Application Center facilitates the visa process by organizing documents and collecting fingerprints and photos before the interview. Applicants will no longer need to bring their own photos, further reducing the cost of applying. Important data will be checked to avoid delays in receiving your visa. For our applicants’ convenience, the Visa Application Center is open Monday through Friday from 7:00 am to 5:00 pm, as well as on Sunday afternoons.
Applicants who do have to come to the Embassy will now enjoy faster, more efficient service because much of the initial work will already be done.
Visa applicants should arrive promptly at their appointment time (there’s no need to stand in line from four or five o’clock in the morning). After being processed through security, applicants’ biographical data will be checked and the applicant will proceed immediately to their interview with a consular officer. Applicants whose visas are approved will no longer have to wait in line again to pay and arrange for delivery of their visa. Instead, after their interview, they will exit the Embassy and plan to pick up their approved visa and passport at the convenient Mailboxes, Etc. location that they selected when they made an appointment.
Before closing, I’d like to stress that until November 12, applicants should continue to follow our old process, as described on our website. The new Call Center telephone number will not be operational until that date. Please note that applicants who pay a visa application fee at Banco Popular before November 12 should schedule their appointments as soon as possible as the Visa Application Center cannot accept receipts issued before the transition. Visa fee receipts paid prior to November 12, 2014 will have difficulty in scheduling appointments after that date.
Please also be sure to check the webpage at santodomingo.usembassy.gov for further updates and important information over the coming weeks.
As Ambassador Brewster emphasized, this new visa process is great news for the United States and for the Dominican Republic. Anything that helps bridge the already short distance between our two countries benefits our economies, our security, and our people. We look forward to inaugurating our Visa Application Center on November 12.
Thank you for coming today and we ask that you help us inform the public about these important changes. I would like to thank Ambassador Brewster for his leadership with this project.
I would also like to thank the Consular Section employees, who work every day to serve the public, and the nonimmigrant visa chiefs, Mr. Jeff Borenstein and Mr. Michael Ose.