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U.S. Ambassador to Ghana, Mr. Robert P. Jackson

US Embassy: Former presidents won’t queue for visas

Ghana’s three living former presidents would not have to queue with fellow citizens seeking American Visas for non-official purposes. The Press Attache’ at the United States Embassy in Ghana, Sarah Stealy has clarified. The clarification followed indications that the US government had withdrawn protocol visa allocation to high-level state officials, after the US Ambassador, Robert Jackson met Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee last week. But speaking in an interview, Ms Stealy explained that diplomatic courtesies would still be extended to Ghana’s former presidents who embark on personal visits. “Under US law, anybody seeking a non immigrant visa to travel to the United States generally needs to appear in person for an interview with the Consular Officer. That has been the law. Under the law there are also a few exceptions under which the interview may be raised and that includes when diplomats and officials are travelling on official business to the United States but under the law if they are applying for a new visa for personal travel then they may appear in person for the interview.” She said if there were special circumstances such as a former president coming in and the Ambassador mentioned this, that we have procedures to ensure that we extend courtesies to them. “They do not have to queue up,” she explained. However, Ms Stealy’s position on the issue seems to contradict that of the US Ambassador, Robert Jackson’s assertion. Explaining his outfit’s position to members of the Foreign Affairs Committee of Parliament on Thursday, after he had earlier written a letter informing Parliament about the decision, Mr Jackson said: “As for the protocol, normally if you are applying for an official travel there is no personal appearance required, so there is no reason for your parliamentary protocol officer to come to the embassy whatever.” “The normal channel will be for him to pass the visas and passport to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration, and their protocol people will be permitted to come to the embassy, and we will do everything we can to process those visas within 48 hours of receipt. If you are travelling for tourism or business that is not related to government business, you will be required to make a personal appearance, even with former presidents. There are no exceptions.” This directive follows a similar position taken by the United Kingdom High Commission on the issuance of visas for personal visits after some four Members of Parliament were alleged to have engaged in visa fraud. –citifmonline.com

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