The U.S. Embassy in Colombo, in collaboration with The Sunday Times, last month launched a new monthly column "Ask the Consul" which provide an opportunity for Sri Lankans interested in visiting, studying, or living in the United States to ask questions about U.S. visas, immigration laws and procedures, and other questions relating to travel to America.
Sri Lankans wishing to apply for U.S. visas often have many questions about the application process and eligibility requirements. Unfortunately, potential applicants are sometimes misled by incorrect information and rumours about eligibility requirements, or about how visas are adjudicated. This column aims to provide accurate information to better inform visa applicants. Questions concerning all types of visas are welcome, including tourist and student visas, employment visas, and visas for permanent migration. We also welcome questions from American citizens who are interested in petitioning for Sri Lankan relatives to immigrate to the United States.
To submit your question, simply write to or send an email to The Sunday Times at:
email@example.com or post your query to
'Ask the Consul'
The Sunday Times
No. 8, Hunupitiya Cross Road, Colombo 2.
On the first Sunday of each month the Sunday Times will publish a selection of these questions as well as answers from American Consular officers.
My daughter is a US citizen by birth and possesses a US passport in addition to her Sri Lankan passport. We brought her to SL when she was an infant and she has never lived in the USA. In the future if she were to marry a Sri Lankan, how would the husband be issued a visa for them to travel together and settle down in the USA? Are there any conditions that they have to meet with on applying for a visa for her husband?
Dear Anxious Parents,
As a US citizen your daughter is eligible to file a petition with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) for her spouse to immigrate to the US. Once the petition is approved by USCIS, her husband could then apply at the Embassy in Colombo for an Immigrant Visa to live in the United States. To qualify, your daughter and her husband must be legally married, have a bona fide relationship, and your daughter must meet certain minimum income requirements to show that she can support her husband and herself. For more information about the process of filing an immigrant visa petition, see www.uscis.gov or go to the Embassy's website at srilanka.usembassy.gov.
I want to visit my daughter in the United States for her confinement. How much money do I have to have in my account to qualify for a visa?
To qualify for a visitor's visa to visit your daughter, you must convince the officer at your interview that you have strong social and economic ties to Sri Lanka that would compel you to return to Sri Lanka after a short visit. There is no standard or minimum amount of money that you have to possess to qualify, as ties to Sri Lanka can come in many forms, not simply money in the bank. Businesses, employment, social obligations, community commitments and family ties are all aspects that the officer will consider.
I was refused a visitor visa and the officer did not even look at my documents!
Interviews are required in order to obtain a visa to the United States because we are interested in hearing in your own words about your plans in the United States and why you would return to Sri Lanka. Our officers are trained to quickly ascertain whether someone is qualified for a visa by asking a few key questions. Applicants should always come prepared with documentation to substantiate what they are saying, as documents can sometimes be helpful in illuminating a person's ties, but do not be surprised if an officer does not need to see them to adjudicate your application.
I have heard that Sri Lankans can get a visa valid for up to five years. Does this mean I can stay in the US for that long? If not, how long can I stay when I go to visit?
Eager to visit
Dear Eager to visit,
You are correct that Sri Lankans may be issued tourist visas valid for up to five years. This means that the visa can be used to travel to and from the US during a five year period, not that you can remain in the US for five years. The length of time you're allowed to stay is determined by the immigration officer at the airport in the US, and is typically a maximum of six months per visit.
However, when travelling to the US you should bear in mind that staying for a long time, even if less than six months, may make the visa or immigration officer suspicious of what you were doing all that time, since six months is a very long vacation! To maintain your credibility as a legitimate traveller, we recommend visits of no more than a couple of months unless there are extenuating circumstances.