US Embassy in Sofia to Streamline Visa Renewal ProcessDiplomacy | April 11, 2012, Wednesday // 14:53| views
US Ambassador James Warlick (left) and US Consul General Eric Alexander (right) present the new streamlined visa application process. Photo by BGNES
The US Embassy in Sofia is launching a new program aimed at streamlining the visa renewal process.
Under the new program, which was officially presented Wednesday, all Bulgarians interested in applying for a visa will be able to use the Electronic Visa Assistant on the Embassy website.
The system will guide applicants through the process in a step-by-step fashion.
For first-time applicants, the new system will allow the Embassy to start processing the documents as soon as they are submitted, which will speed up the entire process and will cut the time spent at the Embassy in half, according to US Consul General Eric Alexander.
Candidates seeking to renew their visas will also go through a simplified procedure.
The candidates will be able to send their documents by mail without having to visit the Embassy in person.
In most cases, the visas will be renewed automatically and the Embassy will return the passports with the visas also by mail.
Candidates seeking to renew visas issued prior to end-2007 will have to go to the Embassy in person to have their fingerprints taken because the step was not part of the process in the preceding period.
These applicants, however, will be able to visit the Embassy at their convenience over a two-week period without prior arrangement.
The simplified visa renewal program is valid even if the visas expired over four years ago.
Bulgarians staying in the US will not be able to apply for a visa renewal from the US but will be free to do this at any US Embassy around the world, rather than only in Bulgaria.
The main purpose of the new program is to simplify the visa application process for all applicants.
"We see a very large number of Bulgarians willing to visit to US for business or tourism purposes. Many Bulgarians have relatives living in the US and this motivated us to simplify the procedure," Eric Alexander explained in a Wednesday statement.
Asked to comment on the high cost of US visas, the US Consul General pointed out that that the price was way lower than the fees charged in other countries across the world.
He drew attention to the 10-year validity period of US visas, adding that visa holders actually paid USD 16 per year, which he said was pretty much affordable.
He specified that some 25 000 – 30 000 visas were issued per year, of which tourist and business visas were between 15 000 and 18 000.
The US Consul General said that the share of visa rejections was 11-14% and only included tourism and business visas.
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