TONGA SEEKS ALTERNATIVE TO COSTLY U.S. VISAS

News Release

Tonga’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations and Ambassador to the United States Her Excellency Fekita ‘Utoikamanu says efforts are being made to ease the cost for Tongans who are seeking visa entries to the United States.

Currently Tongan nationals wanting to visit the US must purchase a return ticket to Fiji for an interview with US Immigration at the Embassy in Suva as part of the visa requirements. That's around TOP600 to 800 [US$294 to US$392] on top of the TOP200 [US$98] visa application fee - without the guarantee of entry approval at the end.

‘Utoikamanu told Tonga-Now that there is a strategy in mind that would see US immigration officers traveling to Tonga instead to carry out visa checks and procedures.

"The ideal would be if the consular officers made it here with technical equipment to perform these procedures," said the Ambassador. However the process is lengthy because such a system would have to be set up for all other Pacific islands that are also without permanent consular or diplomatic offices in their countries and to which the same US immigration policy for the region applies.

Other nations such as the Solomon Islands and Nauru also use the US embassy in Suva, while Samoa nationals use the US embassy in New Zealand. They face the cost of applying for two visas to NZ as well as to the US.

"[US immigration] understand that the need to make it less inconvenient in regards to travel is urgent, and they are working to find a more efficient alternative as soon as it is possible," she explained.

The Ambassador reminded Tongans of the importance of responsible travel and complying with the terms of one’s visa. Staying 180 days beyond the permit will result in a three-year ban from the US, and overstaying for up to 12 months will result in a 10-year ban or automatic rejection of a visa application.

A sponsor in the US must prove he has an income that is 125 percent above the US poverty line, or minimum income level.

The Ambassador said the US Consul in Fiji would like to see that there are sufficient ties in Tonga that would guarantee the return of the individual from the US.

The US Embassy website provides helpful information on travel to the US and applications can be made online.

Rate this article: 
No votes yet

Add new comment