What Exactly is "Visa Shopping"?

What Exactly is "Visa Shopping"?

“Visa shopper” is the term used to describe a foreign national who applies for a U.S. visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate where he/she thinks it will be easier to qualify for a visa, rather than the embassy or consulate responsible for the area where he/she lives.

Such applicants may be trying their luck, or they may be attempting fraud that they believe is less likely to be detected at an embassy or consulate that is unfamiliar with their home country conditions and fraud patterns.

Sometimes visa shopping takes applicants far away from their home country, as well as from their own region. A citizen of “COUNTRY X” living in “COUNTRY Y”, for example, should apply for the visa near where he or she lives, i.e. in “COUNTRY Y”. Tourists or business travelers however, would not ordinarily apply for U.S. visas in “COUNTRY Y” except under emergency circumstances. If they did, they might fit the definition of visa shoppers.

While not illegal, “visa shopping” is frowned upon by Consular Posts, in non-essential (i.e. non-emergency) situations. Under some circumstances, an accepted form of visa shopping, called “Third Country National” (or TCN) processing is permissible.

Cases presented to a Consulate outside of one’s ‘home district’ are accepted on a case by case basis, and at the sole discrection of the Consulate. One should resort to this measure VERY SPARINGLY and only when one feels genuinely compelled to do so, for reasons other than mere inconvenience. Essentially, one has to ask a Consulate for permission to submit (and for the consulate to accept) the case, due to special circumstances.

The consular posts reluctance to accept “visa shoppers” or “third country nationals” in non-essential situations, where reasons for the submission are not compelling, are usually two-fold:

  1. The Consulate already has a high volume of cases (= workload) to process, and wants to minimize its “Extra” load of non-mandatory case adjudications, and
  2. The Consulate may not be familiar with the foreign language of the applicant (where the applicant does not speak English), or may not be familiar with the nature of foreign supporting documentation as well as other considerations of the foreign applicant’s home country.

The Consular Post, may at its discretion, choose to accept an out-of-district application, particular if the reasons for the submission are compelling and/or the representative lawyer makes a good presentation of reasons to the Consulate for accepting the case. One should always be prepared to make several strong arguments well above and beyond “mere inconvenience”.

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