Ask the Consul – August 2019

Dear U.S. Consul,

I would like to apply for a tourist visa. I noticed there are many websites providing visa assistance. Can I use one of these sites to apply or is there a penalty for doing so?

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The only way to apply for a U.S. nonimmigrant visa is by filling out and submitting the DS-160 official electronic visa application on our official website, tt.usembassy.gov/visas. After you complete the application and print out the confirmation page, you must pay the visa application fee at ScotiaBank. Finally, after you pay your fee, you must register for a visa appointment and document return services online at trinidadandtobago.usvisa-info.com.
Nonimmigrant visa – visitor, work, or student – application fee payments can only be made at ScotiaBank branches in Trinidad and Tobago. There is no online option to pay this application fee. If you are prompted to pay this fee online, don’t do it! Private actors may take payment online for assisting you with a visa application, and they may even submit the official visa application form for you, but when you try to reserve an interview appointment you will find you still need to pay the visa application fee at a ScotiaBank. In effect, you will be paying double or more. If you decide to contact your credit card company to challenge a private party’s charge, please know it will not affect your visa application.

The US $160 (approximately TT$1096) paid by persons seeking a nonimmigrant visa is an application fee. This means the payment is for processing the application. Refunds are not available; the fee pays for staff time and other costs associated with processing. In short, paying the application fee is not related to whether you receive a visa. U.S. Embassy visa services are not sub-contracted. We cannot refund payments made to outside vendors.
There is no prohibition on using an outside service provider to assist with your visa application. If you choose to use an outside service provider to complete your application form or schedule an appointment, however, be aware that you are still personally responsible for the accuracy of the information on your form. Be sure to review the instructions in detail and check your form was completed accurately before submitting. Incorrect information could hinder your ability to qualify for a visa and even result in long-term visa ineligibilities that could prove difficult to overcome. The same applies if you are filling out an application for a family member.

It is a good idea to begin the visa application process at least two months prior to your intended date of travel in order to secure a visa interview appointment and, if approved, allow sufficient time for processing.
The summer travel season is our busiest time of the year, and applicants might experience longer wait times for a visa appointment. We recommend not purchasing tickets or making any reservations prior to receiving your issued visa.
Applicants are reminded cellphones and other electronic items are not allowed into the waiting area. Secure those items elsewhere prior to your arrival at the Embassy.

Persons with interviews are allowed to enter no more than 15 minutes prior to the appointment time. There is no need to arrive earlier.

Feel free to bring something to read and a sweater if you are easily chilled. If a visa is approved on the day of the interview, your passport is typically returned to you in 5-10 working days. Again, avoid confirming travel plans prior to receiving your passport.

Email inquiries, including updates on applications in administrative processing, can be sent to consularpos@state.gov. We also respond to brief inquiries via our Facebook page: www.facebook.com/ttusa.