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Breaking News: Nigerians No Longer Have Access To US Visa Interviews Till Further Notice - PUNCH

Nigerians are in a state of panic as its citizens no longer have access to USA Visa interviews and this also apply to those who have paid for their visa fees. Could this be the backdrop of the 80 Nigerians involved in a massive crime syndicate? Which where arrested in the US a week ago?

As a result of this development, travel agents charge desperate applicants more than N100,000 and Student visa application fee now over N200,000. The United States Embassy has yet to respond to our enquiries according to Punch News report.

A visit to the website of the US embassy by The PUNCH on Tuesday revealed that applicants who wish to apply for business/tourist visas were informed that there are no available dates before November 19, 2019 at the point of filling Form DS160.

However, after payment is made in full and an applicant attempts to make an appointment, one is informed through its consultant website hosted by CGI INC afterwards that there are no available dates for visa appointments and suffice it to say, there is no medium put in place for a refund.

However,  a message on its portal, which can only be accessed after payment of visa fees is made, reads in part:

“There are currently no appointment dates available.”

The Chief Executive Officer, Supertech Educonsult, Mr. Oluyemi Ayeni, lamented that many of his students seeking admission to US schools did not get appointments despite paying the service fee. Ayeni, who helps students with admission and counselling, said the service fee, which is compulsory for all student visa applicants, used to be $200 but has now been increased to $350.

According to Ayeni:

“They are not fixing appointments. “All my students travelling don’t have appointments and they are resuming in September. “The service fee that used to be $200 is now $350 (N126,525) non-refundable.

“When you add the visa fee, everything is over N200,000 and it is non-refundable. “My students are crying; they are suffering. And there is nobody to turn to. “The embassy has been paid, yet no appointment for anybody.”

A protocol officer who sort to remain anonymous in one of the federal ministries said that even government officials travelling unofficially were finding it hard to book appointments. He said:

“We have been trying to get appointment dates since June, to no avail. “In the past, it would be indicated on the website that you cannot get dates earlier than a specific time.

“However, what it states on the website now is that there is no available date at any time. “It was never this bad. I have been booking visas for government officials for over seven years now. I still booked visas for UK and Canadian high commissions just recently without any hassles.

“The US used to be the easiest, but now, it is frustrating. “Even the customer care numbers on the website are not helpful. “The only persons that can get visas now are those given notes through the ministry of foreign affairs.”

It was however learnt that despite the claims of the US Embassy in Nigeria that there are no available dates, travel agents were selling appointment slots to desperate applicants. Agents Now charge between N60,000 and N100,000, depending on one’s bargaining skills and the preferred date of interview.

Speaking with The PUNCH, a senior employee of an Abuja-based NGO identified only as Mike, said he faced a similar challenge when he applied for US visa for himself and his four children in order to travel to the US before the end of the summer holiday.

In his words:

“After making our payments, we just couldn’t find interview dates for Abuja. “I thought it was a glitch and kept coming back to the page without any luck. “I voiced my concern to a friend who, in turn, put me in touch with a US embassy official.

“The official told me the interview dates were handled by a third party service provider, but he put me in touch with someone who worked for the supposed third party affiliate. “I was charged N50,000 per application, which cost me a total of N300,000 before we got interview slots barely a week after submitting our applications.”

Reports suggest that the rush for appointments got worse in recent times because the US changed its policy on drop box. The United States Embassy in Nigeria had in May announced stiffer and stricter visa application processes for Nigerians.

It said at the time that all applicants including frequent travellers, who used to use the drop box method, will now have to appear for interviews each time they apply. It, however, said diplomatic and government officials could continue to enjoy the status quo. The statement read in part:

“Effective at the close of business today, Tuesday, May 14, 2019, the US Mission to Nigeria is indefinitely suspending interview waivers for renewals, otherwise known as the ‘Drop box’ process.

“Visa applications will no longer be accepted by DHL in Nigeria. Those who have already submitted their passports via drop box to DHL for processing either at the US Embassy in Abuja, or the Consulate General in Lagos, will not be impacted by this change.

“All applicants in Nigeria seeking a non-immigrant visa to the United States must apply online, and will be required to appear in-person at the US Embassy in Abuja or US Consulate General in Lagos to submit their application for review. Applicants must appear at the location they specified when applying for the visa renewal.”

A response as to why the indefinite closure of appointment dates to Nigerian applicants was still being expected from the US embassy when the story was filed on Tuesday afternoon.

Source: Punch News

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