On Feb. 24, the United States Embassy’s Consular section held an informational session for 20 internet café owners and employees at the U.S. Embassy. The goal of the event was to better explain the visa application process, make applying for visas easier for all involved, and ensure that applications are as well-prepared as possible.
Like several other countries, the United States has adopted an online visa application. The digital format allows more efficient and customized customer service. It expedites the necessary security checks which help protect United States borders and it allows the production of a more secure, versatile travel document.
Due to numerous factors – foremost among them lack of internet access– countless Haitian travelers rely on internet cafes to help them complete the required application documents for tourist and business visas. For many, utilizing these businesses is the easiest way to navigate the process. Understanding this, the Consular Section invited representatives from several of Port-au-Prince’s busiest internet cafes in order to present best practices in filling out visa applications, point out common errors, and highlight ways to streamline the process in a way that benefits the cafes’ clientele and the Embassy’s applicants.
“You help guide thousands of Haitians through the visa application process every year and play an important role in our ability to interview as many people as we do –over 100,000 last year,” said Consul General Robert Hannan. The Consul General addressed the guests and expressed the Embassy’s appreciation for their providing a service that simplifies the process for prospective travelers.
Though Consul General Hannan emphasized that the applicants themselves are ultimately responsible for what goes on their form, he nonetheless urged the gathered internet café employees to emphasize to their customers the importance of being truthful.
“If you aren’t issued a visa, that means you aren’t qualified today,” he said. “If we catch you lying, that means you may never be qualified.”
In addition to seeing how to complete application forms most efficiently, invitees also had the opportunity to hear from the Consular Section’s Fraud Prevention Unit about some of the most recent scams in Haiti, including several promising visas in exchange for money. The session concluded with a Q&A that allowed guests time to ask the assembled officers a range of questions on the visa process.
This marks the Consular Section’s second outreach event for internet café staff, following one in 2016 that welcomed a similar number of internet café owners and employees from around Haiti. Recognizing the important role these Haitian businesses play in the visa process, the Consular Section plans to hold similar sessions in the near future.