Three officials of the United States Embassy in Nigeria, of Friday, interacted with Nigerians from different parts of the country for an hour and three minutes. They spoke on what applicants should do or avoid when processing the US visa.
The live show was not a television programme. Recognising the growing influence of digital media, the visa officers took to Google Hangouts to provide answers to questions bordering applicants while busting various myths around visa processing.
The officers said they took to Google Hangouts to help applicants relate with the embassy directly instead of patronising touts and agents.
The session, which was moderated by Oluwaseun Olaniyan, an on air personality, gave the US embassy officials an opportunity to explain the differences between the immigrant and non-immigrant visas, tricks in the application process and likely pitfalls that applicants should avoid.
The visa officers also explained the rationale behind some common questions and how responses increase or reduce applicants’ chances of getting a visa. For instance, they spoke on why social and economic ties had become an important question during an interview.
In the course of the interactive session, viewers were given an opportunity to ask personal or general questions. All that was required was a click on a keyboard.
Few days before the Google Hangouts, the embassy sent a press statement, inviting interested individuals to hook on to the event. It also gave an hashtag – #AskTheVOs – through which questions would be received.
Indeed, participants bought into the show, sending questions bordering on income range that could be considered satisfactory for anybody to be given a visa.
But the officers said that the important thing, in the case of non-immigrant applicants, was applicants’ ability to prove that they had economic ties with their countries of residence. They noted that those who satisfied all conditions were never refused.
“Ties are essentially the various aspects of your life that bind you to your country of residence: your possessions and family relationships. Visa officers pay a particular attention to ties as they have to do with an applicant’s home country or country from which they are applying,” they said.
The officers advised visa seekers against relying on agents to fill application forms, adding that visa agents were only motivated by the financial rewards instead of helping their clients to secure visas.
“We strongly discourage the use of touts and agents at any point in the visa process. These agents often give applicants false information. Ultimately, touts and companies are primarily interested in making money not getting you a visa. They do applicants a disservice.
“Touts and agents are part of the reason the consulate reaches out to the Nigerian public through events like this Google Hangouts. We strongly recommend that people apply for a visa and go through the entire process on their own,” they said.
According to the officers, visa process could be carried out by applicants without any assistance. The embassy’s website, they noted, was a sufficient guide for even a first-time applicant.
“Application for a U.S. visa is simple and straightforward. Every piece of information you need can be found on our website,” they noted.
One of the issues they emphasised during the session was that getting a visa does not guarantee an entry into a foreign country but only allows the holder to present himself at a port of entry. They described the visa as “an endorsement issued by a government.”
At the end of the Google Hangouts, the embassy’s representatives said members of the public whose questions were not addressed, could relate with them through #AsktheVOs.
But some of the participants said U.S. visa process was not as simple as the officers made Nigerians to believe, asking why hundreds of applicants were still disqualified daily if it were that simple.