The chief of the Consular Section at the U.S. Embassy in Baku Kim Morales is pleased to announce her series of Ask the Consul articles, which are designed to help you better understand the visa process. Articles give you advice on how to obtain a tourist visa, and helps dispel some myths about the process. If you have any questions related to the visa process, you can send them to AsktheUSConsulBaku@state.gov in Azerbaijani, English or Russian.
“Ask the Consul” article series.
As the spring is ending and the summer beginning, it was a busy few weeks at the U.S. Embassy and in the Consular Section. We recently celebrated the 25th Anniversary of Diplomatic Relations between Azerbaijan and the United States, combining U.S. and Azerbaijani musical talents to celebrate the momentous occasion. Our event at the Mugham Center provided me with a fantastic opportunity to meet many Azerbaijanis from all walks of life. Many were alumni of cultural exchange programs, such as the Summer Work and Travel and the International Visitor Leadership Program; others spoke highly of their time studying English or at universities in the United States. It was also great to hear about the Azerbaijani entrepreneurs who explored business practices in the United States and have adopted some of those skills in building successful ventures in Azerbaijan. You, the citizens of Azerbaijan, are doing amazing things to build a stronger, more economically diverse country. I also recently had the opportunity to attend a fabulous Azerbaijani wedding celebration, where I saw the incorporation of new and old traditions into the celebration. Just like our anniversary event celebrated the relationship between Azerbaijanis and Americans, the wedding gave me the opportunity to see the younger and older generations come together to celebrate the start of a wonderful relationship. It reminds me that every day and every adventure allows us to seek opportunities to learn new things, gain new skills, and work together to build a better tomorrow for future generations.
You might be wondering how the events relate to the Ask the Consul column. Through travel, all of us learn great things through our interactions and bring those experiences back with us. When Azerbaijanis visit the United States or participate in cultural and educational exchanges, they are unofficial diplomats for their country. Each interaction in America provides an opportunity to share the rich culture and traditions of Azerbaijan with Americans. It is a chance to highlight its location in the crossroads of the East and the West and share the beauty of the Caucasus Mountains and the Caspian Sea. When business people travel, it is an opportunity to encourage investment in Azerbaijan and bring back best practices in industries. We encourage Azerbaijanis to explore the diverse landscape of the United States, from Hollywood to New York and from Nashville to New York, and enjoy all the United States has to offer. Our job in the Consular Section is facilitating legitimate travel to the United States while still protecting U.S. borders. I hope some of the following information and common questions will help you determine if now is the right time for you to visit the United States or to participate in educational and cultural exchanges. As always, thank you for giving me this opportunity to reach out to you. Please continue to send your suggestions for topics for future columns to AsktheUSConsulBaku@state.gov.
I am interested in the Summer Work and Travel program, where do I start?
You may want to start exploring whether Summer Work and Travel is an option for you by learning about past participants’ experiences. The following website is a great place to begin: http://j1visa.state.gov/participants/videos/.
Who can participate in Summer Work and Travel?
If you are currently enrolled and participating full time at an accredited post-secondary academic institution at the time of the application, you may be eligible. On-line study, though it may be full time and may lead to a degree, does not qualify a student as a full time student for purposes of participation in the Summer Work Travel program. Final year students are eligible to take part in this program during the school’s major academic break immediately following their graduation, as long as they apply to participate in the program prior to graduation.
There is a travel agent and an English Language program who say they can arrange Summer Work and Travel for me. Are they official agents?
You can verify whether an agency or school is an authorized agent for a State Department-designated sponsor by visiting the U.S. Embassy webpage at http://j1visa.state.gov/programs/summer-work-travel
If the school or travel agency is not listed on that page, they are not authorized to coordinate Summer Work and Travel. If you use an agency not listed, you are at risk of becoming a victim of a scam or at risk of committing immigration violations and could be ineligible for future visas.
Can I study in the U.S. on my tourist B1/B2 visa?
NO! You cannot study in the United States on a tourist visa unless it is for short term or non-degree studies. If you plan to study in the United States, you must apply for a student visa through http://www.usvisa-info.com. Be sure to apply well in advance of your travel dates.
I want to visit the United States this summer. How far in advance do I need to apply?
We strongly recommend applying at least one month in advance. During busy seasons like the summer and New Year, you should book your appointment at least 45 days before your travel dates.
Do I need to buy my airline ticket first?
NO! In case you can’t get an appointment or in the event your case requires additional processing, we suggest you wait until you have your visa in hand to purchase your ticket. Change fees are expensive!
Once I fill out the online application, the Embassy will give me an appointment, right?
Not true! In order to receive an interview appointment date, applicants must visit www.usvisa-info.com to pay the fees and make the appointment.
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