US Embassy in Abuja
• Visa applications go up 45%
By Damilola Oyedele
The security situation in some parts of the North has prevented the United States from establishing a consulate in Kano as part of efforts at providing an extra outlet for its visa applicants in the country.
The country has, however, not ruled out a possibility of opening the consulate as soon as the security situation improves and the safety of its staff can be guaranteed.
The Information Officer of the US Embassy in Abuja, Ms. Rhonda Ferguson-Augustus said these in Abuja Wednesday at a briefing to address visa issues, especially student visas.
"There has been some uncertainty and we have to be sure our people would be safe," she said.
Ferguson-Augustus urged Nigerians interested in studying in the US to take advantage of the services offered by EducationUSA which provides information and assistances on study in the US.
The Head of Consular Section of the Embassy, Ms. Carol Cox disclosed that visa applications from Nigerians have gone up by 45 per cent in the last one year.
Although she did not provide a specific figure for the number of applications, Cox said at least 100,000 Nigerians applied and majority got their visas.
"By the end of our fiscal year which is October to the end of September, we expect about 60,000 applicants in Abuja and about 100,000 for Lagos. Nigerians are keeping us busy," she said.
Cox strongly advised intending students not to patronise touts or agents in the process of their visa applications as many simply disburse 'prepared packages'.
She disclosed that some intending students have been banned permanently from obtaining any class of US visa after they innocently presented documents from prepared packages, some of which were fraudulent.
"It is sad because these students thought they were authentic documents, they are now ineligible for US visas because it is visa fraud," Cox clarified.
She added that it is necessary for applicants to understand the realities of studying in the US and working as a student can only work a maximum of 20 hours per week at $8 per hours.
This, she said, would not be enough for tuition, living expenses, air fares and other costs.
Cox added that the consulate in Lagos has had cases of impostors and fake married Diversity Visa applicants arrested by law enforcement agents.
She added that credibility remains the most important factor in visa application as visa fraud or lying on application is considered a serious crime.
"Visa fraud is a crime and will render an individual permanently ineligible for any visa type to the USA. Assisting or facilitating individuals with committing visa fraud can also render an individual permanently ineligible for any visa type," Cox said.