24 Nov 2005

Tonga again concerned about costly process of getting US visas

3:23 pm on 24 November 2005

There's renewed anger over the difficulties faced by people from some Pacific countries getting US visas.

Citizens of Tonga, Nauru, Tuvalu and Kiribati wanting to travel to the US need to report to Fiji for a face to face interview before a visa will be granted.

The Pacnews agency reports the Tonga government has formally raised its concerns with the new deputy US ambassador in Suva, Theodore Mann.

Tonga's acting secretary for Foreign Affairs, Va'inga Tone, has told Mr Mann that Tongans face excessive costs flying to Fiji to apply for their visas.

Mr Va'inga says most visa applicants have to pay for airfares, accommodation and the 100 US dollar fee for the visa.

He says the outcomes for the application remain uncertain so if no visa is issued, the applicants have lost all that money.

Mr Va'inga has suggested that the Embassy's Finger Printing Machine could be taken to Tonga from time to time or that a US Consulate be opened in Tonga.

Another option would be for electronic pre-screening to be carried out in Tonga and only the successful applicants then travel to Suva.