Planning a trip to the United States? Get that visa first

Probably one of the most heart-breaking stories we hear is that of travelers who have done their homework, planned their travels well with the exception that they forgot all about a visa that may be required for entry to a country they are visiting. It’s easy enough to check at various websites including the U.S. Department of State’s site that lists worldwide entry requirements. Still, travelers planning a trip to the United States are getting bad news and don’t have a lot of options.

In a text book case of why obtaining a visa before booking travel is important, close-by Bahamian travelers planning to visit the United States for a cruise are having problems.

U.S. Embassy visa officer Kyle Hatcher told the Tribune that while the embassy sympathizes with the cruise ship passengers, it is not a priority at this time.

“I understand what they are going through, but it is the responsibility of the individual to make their appointment well ahead of their trip” said Hatcher.

Last week, the embassy said due to the large number of students attempting to go back to school in the next two months, college students will get first priority when it comes to visas.

“I understand that students need to go to school but just like they are telling me I should have applied early, they need to tell them to do the same.” said one traveler asking “Who is going to give me the money back I spent to go on my cruise?”

Well, nobody is.

Having the required documentation for entry to countries on a cruise itinerary is solidly the responsibility of the passenger and those without it will be denied boarding, if they make it to the embarkation port at all.

“We have made every effort to inform the public to apply as early as possible. We also encouraged people not to book a trip before you get your visa” said Hatcher adding “You can still apply for your visa but you won’t get a date until the end of September.”

Expedited visas are available but only to certain groups of people including applicants with urgent medical treatment needs, those attending the funeral of a close relative, students, exchange visitors, applicants claiming urgent business travel and temporary workers.

Flickr photo by Thomas Claveirole

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