The Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Kingston is responsible for providing visa services to those seeking to enter the United States for a temporary period and for those wishing to take up indefinite or permanent residence in the United States.
The Consular Section also serves citizens living in Jamaica and the Cayman Islands.
Guidance to H-2A and H-2B Agents, Recruiters, Applicants and Employers
Nonimmigrant Visa Unit – Consular Section
Embassy of the United States, Kingston, Jamaica
On Monday, June 22, President Trump signed a proclamation suspending entry into the United States of certain immigrants and nonimmigrants who present a risk to the U.S. labor market following the coronavirus outbreak. Effective immediately, the proclamation extends the suspension of entry for certain immigrants (Presidential Proclamation 10014) through December 31, 2020. The new restrictions imposed by the proclamation are effective at 12:01 a.m. EDT on Wednesday, June 24 and expire on December 31, 2020, unless continued by the President. U.S. citizens, lawful permanent residents, and aliens who are or were inside the United States or those holding valid nonimmigrant or immigrant visas on the effective date are not subject to the proclamation.
The proclamation suspends entry of nonimmigrants in the following categories: H-1B, H-2B, J (for aliens participating in an intern, trainee, teacher, camp counselor, au pair, or summer work travel program) and L, along with their spouses and children. No valid visas will be revoked under the proclamation. Presidential Proclamation 10014 and this proclamation provide exceptions to their restrictions for certain categories of immigrants and nonimmigrants. The full text of the presidential proclamations is available on the White House website at:
In accordance with provisions of the Presidential Proclamation, we may continue to process certain H-2B cases for applicants whose work directly relates to food production, i.e., fruit packers, fish and seafood processing, etc. This exception generally does not include food service workers, such as cooks and wait staff.
We continue to process all eligible H-2A visa applications, which are essential to the food security of the United States. The Department of State, in consultation with the Department of Homeland Security, has expanded the categories of H-2A applicants who can be adjudicated without an in-person interview. This enables us to process more visas in through two major changes:
- We have received authorization to grant interview waivers to applicants whose H-2A visas expired within the last 48 months (instead of the normal 12). These cases can be scheduled as IW/returning worker ‘courier-in’ appointments now. Any applicant with derogatory information during the screening process must be interviewed in person. If such applications are submitted, their passports will be returned and their cases will be held for administrative processing (refused under INA 221(g)) until such time as we are able to resume interviews.
Applications that meet this new rule may be scheduled as of 18 May 2020 as returning workers (H2-IW) using our online scheduling system at https://ais.usvisa-info.com/en-jm/niv.
- We have received authorization to grant interview waivers to applicants who have not previously received an H-2A visa, or whose last visa expired more than 48 months ago. These applications should be scheduled as H-2A/first time appointments. Any applicant with derogatory information during the screening process must be interviewed in person. If such applicants apply, their cases will be held for administrative processing (refused under INA 221(g)) until such time as we are able to resume interviews, and their passport returned to the service center.
Again, we emphasize that applicants must not go to the Embassy. All application packets (which means a barcode sheet, current photo, and passport) should be delivered to the service center by the agent. Essentially, all applications will be handled using the normal process for IW cases. Applicants need not travel to Kingston for their appointment since there will be no need for their presence until further notice.
Frequently Asked Questions
H-2 Visa Operations in Jamaica During COVID-19
Q: Is the U.S. Embassy in Kingston processing H-2 visa applications?
A: While only emergency and mission critical visa cases are currently being processed, H-2A has been designated as a mission critical category. Embassy Kingston is now accepting H-2A applications, but our ability to process them is limited and our operational posture may change at any time given the current health pandemic. Appointments will be made available through the normal website and processed as long as a post remains operational. We will prioritize the processing of returning H-2A workers who are eligible for an interview waiver. We may also currently process certain H-2B applicants who’s work directly relates to food production: fruit packers, fish and seafood processing, etc. This generally will not include food service workers, such as cooks and wait staff. If you are uncertain as to whether your petition qualifies, please contact KingstonH2AH2B@state.gov.
Q: What are the criteria for an interview waiver?
A: Certain H-2A applicants qualify for an interview waiver under the INA. That includes applicants who had a visa in the same category which expired in the last 48 months (this is a temporary extension of the normal 12 months). Applicants with prior immigration or other lawful violations will generally not qualify for an interview waiver.
Normally, all applicants who did not have a previous visa that meets the requirements above would have needed an interview. However, we will temporarily be able to grant interview waivers to some applicants who have not had an H-2A visa in the past 48 months. For this category, only applicants who do not have previous immigration or other lawful violations and who have not been refused a visa before may be processed at this time.
Q: How can I determine which workers will require an interview?
A: As a general practice, we encourage H-2A petitioners, agents, and recruiters to have frank conversations with their workers to understand their situation and past
immigration history in order to produce more consistent results and reduce processing times. Even if a worker’s situation conforms with the interview waiver criteria noted above, they generally will not be granted an interview waiver if they:
- Have been unlawfully present inside the United States after April 1, 1997.
- Have been arrested or convicted of a crime involving moral turpitude. (Note: Traffic infractions and fines that did not involve an arrest would not meet this definition.)
- Have been arrested for an alcohol-related offense (such as DUI) within the past five years, unless they have received clearance from a panel physician since the arrest.
- Have been granted a waiver of ineligibility under 212(d)(3)(A) in the past.
Q: I only see appointments for Interview Waiver cases. Will you accept applications from non-interview waiver eligible applicants?
A: We are processing as many cases as possible as interview waiver cases. Our capacity is significantly reduced, and this will impact how many appointments we can offer.
Do not bring any applicants to the Embassy for Interview. Due to health concerns, we cannot have them come in physically to either location. Instead, Agents and Representatives should bring the barcode sheet, passport, and a current photo of each first-time application to the DSC. This package should look exactly like a returning-worker/IW application, but please keep applications bundles physically separated into IW and first-timer groups.
We will keep you informed of the status of these applications. You should not expect visas for these cases to be issued on the normal schedule. If we are able to issue a visa, the responsible agent will pick it up according to the normal process. If we are unable to issue a visa, the passport will be returned as a refusal under 221(g).
Q: My worker meets the criteria for an interview waiver but was refused 221(g) and needs an interview. How do I schedule that appointment?
A: Consular Officers retain the discretion to call any applicant for a consular interview to address the applicant’s eligibility for a visa. We cannot offer interviews at this time and will be working on rescheduling applicants who need one at a later date once interviews on site at the Embassy resume. We have no date as yet as to when this will occur.
Q: What will happen to people who need a waiver of an ineligibility?
A: In light of the current drawdown in services and the inability to interview these applicants in person, cases with associated derogatory information will be suspended and refused under INA 221(g) until the resumption of visa interviews.
Employers seeking workers should anticipate that applicants with visa ineligibilities will not be issued even if they were previously issued after an in-person interview or granted a waiver of an ineligibility.
Petitioners, employers, and recruiters are encouraged to vet workers closely to ensure they are likely to be issued without a need for an interview.
Q: How long will this be in effect?
A: This is a temporary action due to the COVID-19 pandemic. These measures will end no later than December 31, 2020.
Visiting the Embassy
All visitors to the Consular section, including all visa applicants and U.S. citizens, must enter the facilities via a dedicated consular entrance on Old Hope Road. All visitors to the Embassy are required to undergo a security check. Electronic items, including cell phones, cameras, beepers, and pagers, are prohibited on the Embassy compound and should be secured elsewhere before entering the Embassy. The Embassy reserves the right to limit the entry of possessions and does not have the means to store these items.
All visa interviews at the U.S. Embassy in Kingston are handled on an appointment basis only. Individuals seeking general information about U.S. visas or needing to schedule a visa appoint should visit the visa application website.
U.S. Embassy Kingston is located at 142 Old Hope Road in Liguanea, Kingston 6. Our office hours are Monday to Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. except for holidays. The Embassy is accessible by public transportation, including buses and taxis. While the Embassy does not provide parking for visitors, commercial parking is available within a short walking distance of the Embassy (for example, a parking lot is situated at 27 Munroe Road).
U.S. Embassy Kingston is located at 142 Old Hope Road in Liguanea, Kingston 6. Our office hours are Monday to Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. except for holidays. Email KingstonNIV@state.gov
Nonimmigrant visas (NIVs) are intended for those who plan to visit the U.S. for business or pleasure; students or exchange visitors embarking on study or cultural work programs in the U.S.; people who are transiting through the U.S. to other onward destinations; seasonal temporary workers or workers who have been hired by U.S. companies for longer periods of time; visitors on diplomatic, official or U.N. business; journalists who are providing media coverage of time-specific events; and others who are traveling to the U.S. for limited time periods.
How to Apply for a Visa
U.S. visa application services will be provided to visa applicants by our authorized partner, us-visa-info.com.
To learn more about the visa application process, pay the visa application fee online, schedule an appointment, and follow up on the status of your application please visit us-visa-info.com.
Cayman residents must follow all of the procedures for completing the electronic visa application forms if they wish to apply for a visa. Please visit the Documentation page of our GSS website for information relating to application documentation.
In some cases, Cayman residents applying for a visa may be allowed to send in their passport and other visa documentation by courier, instead of appearing for an interview. Applicants will be notified of this option during the visa application process if it is available. In such cases, applicants must make their own arrangements for the delivery of the application package to the Consular Section via courier. Please include a pre-paid self-addressed envelope in the package for the return of the documents.
Residents of the Cayman Islands have two options for return delivery of their passports, if their visa is approved. At no additional charge, they may make arrangements to have DHL deliver the passport to an address in Jamaica. If an applicant must return to the Cayman Islands immediately, they may make arrangements with a courier service to have the passport mailed to the Embassy in Jamaica and back to the Cayman Islands using a prepaid air-bill.
Please visit the Visa Document Courier Services page of our GSS website for more information about courier services.