Our Embassy interviews approximately 10,000 Belizean and third-country nationals each year, and Belize has the LOWEST refusal rate of any Caribbean country, less than 20% are denied visas. To obtain a tourist visa, the applicant must show definite proof they will be returning to Belize. These denials are based on several factors: 1. Many of the applicants are third-country nationals who have come to Belize for the purpose of getting into the U.S. and have not established ties to Belize and have no intentions of returning to Belize. One good example is the group of Chinese students who showed up at UB last year. 2. Applicants must present proof of employment AND proof of a salary – such as a record of social security payments by the employer. Sorry this is required but all too often we have visa applicants showing up with a letter written by an employer that this person works for them, but absolutely no proof that this person works for them, thus we ask to see proof of the salary also. People will return for a good job and steady salary. 3. Applicants must be able to show that they can afford to pay for airfare and vacation time in the U.S. and to do this they must present the last 3 month bank activity book, NOT a letter from the bank. It doesn’t matter if someone else is paying for their trip – the applicant must qualify on their own merits and not on the financial status of someone else.

Our Embassy does not make/keep any of the $BZ200 interview fee that is paid to Atlantic Bank. We have strict guidelines with Atlantic Bank and our records are checked by regional consular officers several times each year to reconcile that the number of interview appts being sold and reported are the number of people coming in for interviews. (It amazes me that anybody can fool those regional consular auditors.) The fee does not guarantee a visa – it provides the services of an interview. The fee is determined based on a world-wide application rate and all fees go directly to the State Dept to pay for all the necessary paperwork, computer, databases and personnel work to make one visa happen. If Belize, a country of about 290,000 inhabitants has 10,000 applications each year, you can only imagine what other countries, such as Mexico and the Philippines, have. (We have 2 adjudicating officers; Bogota has 36!)

I have been here 3 years now and have overseen a phenomenal change in the visa process – first to electronic visa and now to on-line appointments. So far we hear good things from the public. People only have to come to the Embassy one time now – when I arrived here in 2004, an applicant would have to make 3 trips to the Embassy. Now an applicant is guaranteed an appt on the day they request. The “Visa Processing” signs you see are entrepreneurs who have internet accessibility and help applicants fill out the forms and make an appt. Our Embassy does NOT receive any type of funding from those operations either nor do we recommend one over another. I just wish more Belizeans had opened up to the possibility but it seems I see a lot of third-country nationals who are seeing this as a business opportunity. As I said, feedback has been very positive, and within one hour of announcing our on-line appt plan on LOVE FM, our office already had 12 appts set up on line. Belize is NOT a technology-deprived country. The news coverage lamented that Belizeans don’t use computers – I don’t agree with that. If an older person is not familiar with computers, call in the grandchildren – they can do it all.

The biggest change I have seen in consular work since 2002 (I started in Togo, then to Iraq and then here) are the database upgrades we now have to incorporate records from Dept of Homeland Security, etc. These records can tell us a person’s travel history, if there are any records of arrest while in the U.S., etc. (Don’t worry, if you don’t have a civil or criminal record, you are NOT on the database.) Uncle Sam is not spying on you – Sam is not even interested in you, but is interested in rates of travel, length of stay, etc. If a person is seen entering the U.S. 14 times in 3 months for a short stay, then Uncle Sam is interested.

Hope I have answered some of your questions.

Cindy Gregg
Consul – U.S. Embassy