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By Neto Baptiste
Minister of Information, Broadcasting, Telecommunications & Information Technology, Melford Nicholas, has warned sporting associations that are seeking the assistance of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs at the eleventh hour when trying to secure US visas for traveling national teams that that method is not likely to yield positive results.
The St John’s City East MP was, at the time, addressing what has become a worrisome issue within the sporting community where associations either fail to secure interview dates with the US embassy in Barbados ahead of scheduled tournament on US soil or, in some cases, have issues securing visas for players and officials.
“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in tandem with the Ministry of Sports have made these representations before but what is required is timely intervention. So, if associations make late decisions to participate in any international event and then there is a ramble-scramble for them to raise the funds to get the athletes into those locations as well as to deal with the provision of visas, then it will be a challenge,” he said.
“If they know they are going to have six or seven athletes with officials travelling and they are going to have challenges with visas, then it would be good if they engaged the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, through the Ministry of Sports at the earliest possible time to avoid a last-minute rush,” he added.
Nicholas, who addressed the issue during Thursday’s post Cabinet press briefing, said the relevant government bodies are fully aware of the issues faced by citizens in general when applying for a US visa.
“Officials from the US Embassy had visited Antigua and they would have had a number of engagements with certain business officials, trade associations, government officials. Part of the discussions, at least at my level, was centered around the difficulties that general citizenry would have had in acquiring new visas or extension of visas. Many persons utilising the online service of the US Embassy in Barbados would indicate they have been given a [date] going as far forward on the calendar as 2024, and so you can imagine there is a significant backlog of applicants. So the question that was put forward is whether or not the United States may not reconsider opening an embassy in this part of the Caribbean,” he said.
Since the advent of the Covid-19 pandemic, some associations have encountered difficulties in securing dates ahead of tournaments scheduled in a US territory. Although called in to assist on some occasions, the Foreign Affairs ministry also found it difficult to assist the affected bodies.
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