Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell has welcomed the decision taken by the United States government of President Donald Trump to allow for Grenadians to process their visa renewal procedures at home online without the additional cost of travelling to Barbados.
Speaking at a ceremony in St. George’s last week Thursday in which the announcement was made, the Prime Minister said that the decision taken by Washington which became effective on September 10 will go a long way in easing the burden placed on the pockets of applicants.
“I know for a fact, there are many of our citizens, historically in their attempt to get Visas for the United States have had to make tremendous sacrifices. Many of them are poor people who have little wealth and many times they have to spend quite a bit to go to Barbados…”, he said.
According to Dr. Mitchell, Grenadians also face problems with air transport to get to Barbados including the high cost of flying and also having to spend more money to overnight in Bridgetown in order to be on time for their appointments with the U.S Embassy.
“…The hassle and the problems in the cost is quite prohibitive and therefore this news has enormous implications for the people of Grenada”, he said.
Under the arrangement, Grenadians are no longer mandated to travel to Barbados to renew their visas, since the waiver makes it possible for them to apply online and then use a courier service to send their passports to the U.S Embassy in Barbados.
US Ambassador to Grenada, Linda Taglialatela who attended the joint press conference gave an insight into how the process will work.
She said: “What the United States has done is approved for the people of Grenada a waiver for renewal of visas, which means people don’t have to come to Barbados to get their visa renewed, they can do it online by filling out the visa application, submitting the appropriate documents and then couriering the passport to Barbados”.
However, Ambassador Taglialatela noted that this will only apply to persons whose visas had been expired for no more than 12 months since any expiration past one year will require applicants to travel to Barbados.
The new directive from Washington will not apply to those foreigners who came into possession of a Grenada passport by buying it through the controversial scheme known as Citizenship By Investment (CBI).
Applicants who receive CBI passports will be required to schedule an interview with the embassy in Barbados for visa renewals.
Ambassador Taglialatela said the hope is that this new development will further deepen and strengthen the relationship existing between Grenada and the United States.
“Hopefully, this will again, encourage our relationship which I believe and my government believes have been a very productive and very warm and welcoming relationship with Grenada for many years”, she said.
“Under our Caribbean Strategy 2020, one of the things is (that) we want to improve and enhance that relationship and we want to continue to inspire people to travel between our two countries and learn about the cultures and the people”, she added.
The U.S envoy went on: This hopefully will assist a lot of Grenadians who are interested in going to the United States by being able to renew their visas online, through the mail, rather than going to Barbados”.
Minister of Foreign Affairs, Peter David who also attended the joint Press Conference pointed out that this development would be welcomed by Grenadians in the Diaspora.
In addition, he said that the move by Washington “is indicative of the deep relationship between Grenada and United States and it also does well for the future relationship”.
“Our relationship with the United States is one that is deep and wide and I’m sure to the Diaspora this would also be welcomed news for those who travel back and forth”, he added.
David was a member of the 1979-83 leftist People’s Revolutionary Government (PRG) which had strained relations with Washington after it seized power in a coup d’etat on March 13, 1979 against the elected Eric Gairy government.
A U.S-led military intervention of October 25, 1983 restored law and order on the island after a second coup d’eat in which Marxist Prime Minister Maurice Bishop was killed by radicals within the then New Jewel Movement (NJM) who seized power in a bloodbath at Fort Rupert which has since returned to its original name Fort George.
The military action brought an end to Grenada’s flirtation with leftwing revolution and paved the way for a number of political figures in exile including current Prime Minister Mitchell to return to the island and take part in free and fair elections.