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PM Browne questions why nation left out of US interview waiver programme

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Prime Minister Gaston Browne (File photo)

The Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda is having a hard time understanding why the twin-island state as well as two other member states of the Organisation of the Eastern Caribbean (OECS), were not included in the list of countries that are to benefit from the United States (U.S.) interview waiver programme for people renewing their visas.

Prime Minister Gaston Browne said he finds strange that the new measure does not include all OECS member-states.

“We have an economic union comprising of six independent countries and you have offered it to three of those countries and you have left out three. You have left out Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, St Vincent and the Grenadines,” Browne said on Pointe FM over the weekend.

He added, “That’s their policy and I am not saying this out of any acrimony, but I want to know how does that type of behaviour help to foster strongerrelations between the U.S?” Meanwhile, noted Dominica attorney Anthony Astaphan SC, who appeared on the same radio programme, also spoke on the matter.

The Senior Counsel said he found it astonishing that countries which the U.S. would have punished for violating its international image and threatening public security, are now going to be beneficiaries of what he described as “benevolent principle”, while countries that have never been sanctioned are being left out.

“I think it is punitive, maybe with a small p, but it is punitive because they [Antigua and Barbuda and the other three OECS states] did not follow the quote, unquote destruction of the United States,” Astaphan said.

The senior lawyer also described the recent U.S. measure as perverse. So far, the U.S. Embassy has announced the implementation of the interview visa waivers for qualified applicants in Barbados, St. Lucia and Grenada, who are wishing to renew their U.S. visas. The process can now be done online and passports sent to Barbados via courier service.

Passport holders may qualify for a visa renewal interview waiver if their previous visa expired within the past 12 months and they are applying for the same visa category as their previous visa, according to information posted on the Embassy’s website.

The applicant must be physically present in their respective countries or within the consular district of the U.S. Embassy in Bridgetown, Barbados to avail themselves of the option.

Additionally, the previous U.S. visa must be in the applicant’s possession, and the applicant must have submitted a 10-fingerprint scan in conjunction with the previous visa application.

Students who wish to renew their visas, and who satisfy the requirements, may also qualify for interview waiverif they are applying to continue attendance at the same institution, or will continue the same major course of study at a different institution.

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