by Rafael R. Pichardo
The US Embassy in Santo Domingo is one of the largest missions in Latin America.
- In fiscal year 2016, the post issued 53, 339 Immigrant visas, only second to Mexico for IV visa issuance.
- In Fiscal Year 2016, the post issued 146, 910 NIV visas. This represents an increase of over 53,000 visas from Fiscal year 2015. According to local practitioners, the increase in visa issuance represents a significant shift by the NIV section towards issuing more NIV’s to Dominicans because of changed country conditions. The current refusal rate for B Visas is at 31.88%. 
Practitioners should be aware that the visa section is very concerned about fraud and, as a result, both NIV and IV applicants should be advised that they may undergo additional questioning related to their applications. The embassy has its own campaign to combat fraud called Ten Cuida’o con ese Maco (be careful of that nosy person) which attempts to discourage applicants to affiliate with any unauthorized person that may facilitate fraudulent documents or statements during visa applications. K-1 visa applicants and Marriage based applicants should be carefully prepared for their visa interview. It is not uncommon for applicants to be separated during their interviews, or for cases to be sent to administrative processing while the fraud unit sends out investigators to verify details from the application and the interview.
USCIS Santo Domingo Field Office
The USCIS International Field Office is located at the Embassy and has jurisdiction over U.S. immigration matters in the Dominican Republic, Anguilla, Antigua & Barbuda, Aruba, Barbados, Bonaire, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Curaçao Islands, Dominica, Grenada, Jamaica, Montserrat, St. Kitts & Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, The Bahamas, Trinidad and Tobago, Turks and Caicos Islands, and the U.S Naval Station in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Filing Locally At USCIS Field Office
USCIS Santo Domingo will accept I-130 petitions from U.S. Citizens residing in the Dominican Republic for their spouse, unmarried child under the age of 21 or parent (if the U.S. citizen is 21 years of age or older). The Office may allow certain I-130 petitions if the U.S. citizen lives in the Office jurisdiction to be filed locally if the petitioner or beneficiary can demonstrate exceptional circumstances. See USCIS Policy Memorandum “ Process For Responding To Requests by the Department of State (DOS) To Accept A Locally Filed I-130, Petition For Alien Relative”. Active duty U.S. military service members stationed permanently at a military base in this office’s jurisdiction may file this form directly with the Department of State without needing to establish exceptional circumstances pursuant to USCIS website.
** Practice Pointer – Filing locally may be allowed where LPR petitioner naturalized and a separate petition is necessary for the F2A children and Petitioner has already travelled to the Dominican Republic in anticipation of IV interview. Your client can obtain much quicker processing of the petition and obtain a IV interview for both the spouse and child at the same time.
Customs and Border Protection and ICE
Customs and Border Protection (CBP) as well as Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) also have sections within the Embassy.
Travel Documents Through USCIS NOT CBP
CBP is no longer processing applications for travel documents like transportation letters As of October 1st, 2016, and all travel document requests in the Dominican Republic will be processed by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services office (USCIS) in Santo Domingo. If you are requesting a transportation letter, please visit the USCIS website: uscis.gov/santo-domingo for further instructions.
- Read the instructions on the embassy website carefully to make sure that your client is prepared for their interview. The embassy depends on the contractor CGI for management of its visa application support center and scheduling of appointments, as well as selection of a carrier for delivery of visas and passports as well as mailing documents to the embassy.
- Follow The instructions on UStraveldocs.com/do for registering client for selection of courier- currently only Mailboxes Etcetera and the Visa Application Center (VAC) are allowed to fulfill these functions.
- Contact the embassy through email@example.com or through phone at Callers in the Dominican Republic: Call 18299565144 / Callers in the United States: Call 17039883410 . You can also Skype to do so add a new contact to your Skype account with the Skype name ustraveldocs-dominicanrepublic.
- There is also an online chat available by going to the contact us page.
- Read the embassy’s section called “Ask the Consul” for updated information on particular questions such as the wait time after administrative processing.
- Contact the embassy before reviewing the instructions on the UStraveldocs page and the embassy specific instructions.
- Escalate a case without first consulting the FAM for the relevant citation to current policy.
- It’s taking at least 60 days to obtain a B1/B2 visa interview appointment so plan accordingly for your clients. But you can monitor the UStraveldocs profile page to find new appointments that are released and become available throughout the week.
- Expedite Requests:
- Follow the instructions on UStraveldocs – http://www.ustraveldocs.com/do/do-niv-expeditedappointment.asp
- Applying for a 212(d)(3) waiver recommendation- Prepare your client carefully to make sure that they are not denied under 214(b) which would prohibit them from pursuing a waiver recommendation at the consulate.
- Processing of E-2’s by third country nationals at Embassy – Yes, they process E2s in Santo Domingo. You just need to schedule an appointment and deliver the documents at the interview. They will 221g to review the documents and make a decision shortly thereafter.
- The embassy welcomes third-country processing.However, kif you’re client isin the Dominican Republic for only a short period, it is important to keep in mind that there are processing times after the interview in order for the visa to be printed and delivered, which usually require about one week for applicants in Santo Domingo and a few days longer for applicants outside of the capital.” See https://do.usembassy.gov/soliciting-u-s-tourism-visa-third-country-national/.
- Currently experiencing backlogs – IV appointments are currently being scheduled for 60-90 days AFTER NVC completes document review. Important to explain to client that there are delays.
- Expedite Requests are possible write to firstname.lastname@example.org with a concise explanation of the reasons for expediting.
- Do follow the instructions on UStraveldocs.com/do carefully and the embassy specific instructions.
- Advise your client to get their medical exam as soon as possible both to avoid delays in processing (applicant will have to be re-scheduled if medical exam is not completed or results not ready in time for interview). Also, important in case where client may have a medical issue that could be resolved in time for the interview.