Vickie Remoe Institute of Digital Communications

How To Apply for a US Visa From Sierra Leone

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Things to consider before you apply for a visitors visa to the US, UK or Europe from Sierra Leone 

In the past few months, a couple of people have reached out to me asking for supporting documents for their visa applications to the United States. One thing that was clear in these requests is that young Sierra Leoneans don’t understand how the Consulate section that processes visas to the US and the UK works. There are many types of visa you can apply for but today, I want to share some facts about how to apply for a US visa for non immigrants also known as the visitor visa and the UK visitor visa.

US and UK don’t want immigrants from Sierra Leone 

The first thing to know when preparing to apply for a US visa or a UK visa is that as an African person, you are considered one of the least desired immigrants to these countries. What I mean by that is that while these countries claim to welcome people from all over the world, they have preferences. In predominantly white societies or countries in Europe and North America, their preferred choice of immigrants or visitors are people who look similar to them. Even though Canadian nationals “overstay” in the largest numbers on a visit to the US, the focus is always on Mexicans who are two times less likely to overstay.

Europeans are the most preferred, followed by highly skilled South and East Asians, then people from South or Latin America, and finally Africans. This is evident in the low visa approval rates for Africans and the low number of African immigrants in these countries. Therefore, as a Sierra Leonean, you need to have impeccable documentation or proof of your background in order to increase your chances of getting a visa. The burden of proof is heavier on you then people from other places. In 2023, one in every two visitor visa from Sierra Leone was rejected (the refusal rate was 49%). The visa refusal rate for The Gambia was 60%, Senegal 70%, Liberia 78%, Ghana 38%, and Nigeria 31%. Now compare those refusal rates to European countries; France 10%,  Germany 11%, Luxembourg 4%, Monaco 0%, Hungary 7%, Iceland 5%.

What to consider in preparing your financial documents for when you apply for a US visa or UK visa 

Even if your documentation is impeccable, there is still a chance of being rejected. For example, you could be an African professor at a top university, well-published, and respected, and get invited by a US-based organization for a conference, and still get rejected. Unfortunately, recent college graduates or young professionals in Sierra Leone face even greater odds because these countries believe that the majority of young people in Sierra Leone want to leave Africa to move to their countries. This perception is not entirely inaccurate, and it shapes visa policies.

When applying for a US visa or a UK visa, you need to provide proof that you can afford the trip. The applications ask who will be paying for your trip, and you have the option of saying you will pay or someone else will. If you claim to be paying, you need to provide financial documentation showing the transactions in your bank account, including the source and frequency of the funds. Simply depositing a large sum of money right before your visa application will not be sufficient. They want to see a track record of where the money comes from and how often it is deposited. If you have cash deposits without any official transactions, it can raise suspicion of illegal activity. It is advisable to start preparing your financials at least six months before submitting your application, to show a consistent and healthy financial status.

Proof Documents Needed When You Apply for a US Visa or UK Visa That Show You Have Strong Ties to Sierra Leone 

Another factor that visa processing officers consider is your ties to the community in Sierra Leone. They want to see that you have a good life and strong connections in your home country, which will encourage you to return after your visit. This can include having a great job, owning a thriving business,  or being a recognized figure in your field. If you have relatives in the United States, it is important to be cautious about listing them as it can raise concerns about your intention to overstay your visa. While you might think having relatives in the US shows that you have established ties in the US, for a visa officer it’s a red flag that you can easily be tempted to stay because you have a community. Now I’m not saying you should lie, just letting you know that what may appear harmless may not always be. Remember, the person that is reviewing the application doesn’t want you to go there and overstay and they are looking for any sign that you might so they can reject you. 

You applied for a US visa or a UK visa from Sierra Leone and You Got It. What To Do Next?

If you are fortunate enough to receive a visa, congratulations. Have a wonderful time visiting. Go see as many States as possible. While traveling by bus is not the most comfortable it is affordable and a great way to see and experience America. When it time to leave however, it is crucial that you do not to overstay your permitted time. Overstaying your visa will lead to undocumented status, which can have severe consequences. While it is possible to live in America as an undocumented immigrant for many years, it limits your opportunities and access to services. If you are undocumented, your earning power is significantly reduced, making it difficult to meet financial expectations. It is essential to follow the rules and not jeopardize future visa applications.

That being said I know that no amount of advice about the hardships in America for an undocumented immigrant will deter anyone from overstaying their visa. If there is one thing I would advice though is that before you overstay your visa fall in love with someone who is a citizen or permanent resident and marry your love before that visitor’s visa expires. Doing so will get you on a path to legal residency and later naturalization. 

In conclusion, getting a visa to visit the US, UK, or Europe can be challenging, especially for Africans. It is important to have impeccable documentation, including proof of financial stability and strong ties to your home country. Overstaying your visa is not advisable and can have long-term consequences. It is crucial to consider all factors and make informed decisions when applying for a visa.

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