US visa seekers cautioned against touts

Chennai: Talking tough against fraudulent methods to obtain American visa, the US Consulate General here on Thursday said it would not tolerate such practices and also warned genuine visa seekers from falling prey to touts.

"The proportion of false applicants (to genuine ones) is high. We have no tolerance for fraud documents and other fraudulent means to obtain a US visa and we are highly successful in detecting them," US Consul General Andrew T Simkin said.

Addressing a press conference here on the new online visa application procedure for a non-immigrant visa, "DS-160", he said consular officers were "highly successful in detecting fraudulent documents and applicants with false stories."

Simkin said 80 per cent of the visa applicants receieved visas while the rejections included both failure in meeting stipulated requirements as well as fraudulent methods to obtain the travel document.

Declining to quantify the number of fraudulent visa cases, he said some "honest" applicants fell prey to "visa-fixers" who managed to trick the gullible applicants by misleading them with wrong facts regarding documents and the interview, all for money.

"Be honest and meet all requirements," Bryan Dalton, Chief of the Consular section, said adding the Consulate was coordinating with Tamil Nadu Government officials against visa fraud.

On the salient features of applying for a visa through the form DS-160, he said it was a "more streamlined, efficient and smart process which required less paperwork as against the previous procedures."

For instance, the "customised" system online would ask questions related to the previous question answered by the applicant while filling the form, making it easier for officials to process the visa.

"If someone answers the first question that he is on a tour of the US for education, the subsequent questions by the system would be based on this subject only," Dalton said.

To prevent malpractices, the person who helped the applicant (if he had no computer knowledge) fill up the form, that person would also be required to register, allowing officials to track him if a need arose.

The DS-160 format would come into effect from January 19 for appointments from February 1 onwards.

While there was no legal cap on the number of visas to be provided by the Consulate, it was trying to facilitate visa for all genuine applicants, Simkin said adding that waiting time for an interview appointment had now been reduced to two days.

To a query, he said the Consulate had issued 558 visas a day on average in 2009. There had been a dip in the previous year following global economic downturn.