Jamaicans appear to be among the most anxious of Caribbean Community citizens who are rushing to obtain non-immigrant, or visitor, visas to the U.S., fearing that promised policy changes by the administration of President Donald Trump might make it harder to do so in the coming months.
They are among thousands of people from the regional bloc of countries who have been moving in recent weeks to put their personal houses in order, just in case embassies around the world are instructed to clamp down on the issuance of visitor visas.
The Jamaica Observer newspaper reported this week that Jamaicans paid as astonishing $10 million to the U.S. Embassy in fees while applying for entry visas in the past year.
Officials at the American mission in Kingston, the Jamaican capital, said that it is clear that the rhetoric from the 2016 election campaign had reached the region and spurred applicants into action.
Trump, while on the campaign trail, had pledged both to review the entire immigration statutes and to deal with illegal immigrants. Figures on the number of illegal immigrants on the American mainland vary from 8 to 13 million, but even though not much has been said about visitor visas, anxieties about what the future holds abound, in Jamaica in particular.
Mission spokesman Joshua Polacheck said consular officers are swamped by the sheer number of applicants at the mission each working day. He called the current state of affairs an “unprecedented number of non-immigrant visas,” with the number of applicants reaching up to 1000 daily.
To apply for an American visa, applicants must pay $160 for the interview, and they lose the money altogether if their bid is unsuccessful.
Polacheck said 85,000 people had applied for visas in the 2013 fiscal year compared with 185,000 up to late last year.
In several other regional jurisdictions, such as Guyana, Trinidad and some of the smaller island nations of the Eastern Caribbean, there have also been noticeable increases in the number of people paying for interview appointments at American missions.
There were no figures for other types of visas, such as those for students and migrant workers, many of whom are also in a state of heightened anxiety, given the rhetoric from the 2016 elections, threats to build a wall along the Mexican border and threats to deal with immigrants in general.
And because of statements about keeping the number of immigrants down in general, many of those waiting for green cards are fearful that annual quotas could be cut.