While encouraging its companies to explore investment opportunities in Guyana, particularly with the oil and gas sector expected to drive growth, the United States denied 70 per cent of the Guyanese who applied here for business/tourism visitor visas last year.
From a high in 2016, when 51,202 ‘B’ class visitor visas were granted to Guyanese, last year only 4,923 ‘B’ visas were granted, reflecting a major decline of over 20,000 as compared to 2017 when 25,338 visas were approved.
October 1st to September 30th is the accounting period of the U.S Federal Government’s fiscal year. The figures, therefore, reflect visas issued from October 1st, 2017 to September 30th, 2018.
According to data on the US State Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs website, the number of visas issued by the U.S Embassy’s Consular Office in Guyana was at an all-time low since 2010 and stood at 4,923 visitors’ visa issued for the 2018 fiscal period.
A breakdown of “Non-immigrant Visas Issued by Issuing Office (Including Border Crossing Cards)” since 2009 shows that 2010 saw the lowest number of visas issued, some 4,242, and 2016, the highest at 51,202 for this country.
Data on the overall number of applications for visas received and specific country refusal figures were not found by this newspaper on the site.
However, the total worldwide B1, B1/B2, B2 visa issuances for the period 2013 to 2018 was illustrated on a graph and showed that 2018 saw the lowest number of visa issuances, totaling 5,779,411. In 2013, the number was just a bit higher at 5,802,062. In 2014, it was 6.4 million, in 2015 it was 7.3 million, in 2016 it was 6.9 million, and in 2017 it was 6.3 million.
As it pertained to immigrant visas for the 2018 fiscal period, that figure for Guyana is given as 7,506. It reflected an increase since 2014 as figures for the 2014 to 2017 period shows lower numbers.
In the 2014 fiscal year, the U.S Embassy processed a total of 6,403 immigrant visas but in 2015, that number went down by 249, taking the year’s total to 6,154. It would drop by a further 554 for the 2016 fiscal year when the processed immigrant visa number were 5,600.
However, over the past decade, the number of immigrant visas processed have remained in the range between 4,400 and 6,500.
In 2016, then United States Ambassador to Guyana, Perry Holloway, had credited the increase over the years as being mostly due to the improving economic situation in the country.
“The improving economic situation over the last few years has led to our refusal rate coming down significantly, from a high of well over 50 per cent five years ago, to one much lower today and luckily for us, only a small per cent of Guyanese who go to the US actually abuse their visas and stay illegally,” Holloway had stated.
The then US envoy had pointed out that bilateral relations between Guyana and his country “could not be better” and that the future was also optimistic since “there is a lot more to come.”
Current US Ambassador Sarah-Ann Lynch recently said that the United States would continue to encourage its businesses to invest in Guyana as it believes the expected proceeds from the oil and gas sector would provide opportunities for them to thrive.
The US State Department’s Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs in its 2018 Investment Climate Statement (ICS) lauds Guyana as a country ripe with investment opportunities.