Obtaining a U.S. Visa to Participate in the 24th World Scout Jamboree

Approximately 25% of anticipated participants will require a U.S. visa to attend the Jamboree.

To provide assistance to NSOs in the application and entry process, representatives of the Jamboree Management Team briefed the U.S. State Department in Washington, DC and have initiated discussions with U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the agency responsible for enforcing entry requirements at U.S. transportation gateways.

Citizens of the 38 countries, which are part of the U.S. Visa Waiver Program (VWP) – as well as citizens of Canada and Bermuda – will not require a visa. Citizens of all other countries, including host country Mexico, will require a nonimmigrant visitor (B) visa.

However, as of 2015, nationals from VWP countries must obtain a U.S. visa if they:

  • Have traveled to or been present in Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, or Yemen or after March 1, 2011 (with limited exceptions for diplomatic or military travel);
  • Are also nationals of Iran, Iraq, Sudan, or Syria.

In addition, as of April, 2016, you must have an e-passport to use the VWP. An e-passport is an enhanced secure passport with an embedded electronic chip. You can readily identify an epassport as it has a unique international symbol on the cover.

A list of VWP countries along with passport and other information can be found at:

https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas/tourism-visit/visa-waiver-program.html

In order to travel without a visa on the VWP, you must have authorization through the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) prior to boarding a U.S. bound air or sea carrier. ESTA is a web-based system operated by U.S. Customs and Border Protection to determine eligibility to travel under the VWP to the United States for tourism or business.

In most cases, your ESTA will be valid for two years under the same passport for a registration fee of $14 (to minimize problems at entry gateways, make sure the two-year authorization window covers the period of Jamboree travel). To register and for more information, use the following link:

https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov/esta/

Note that the U.S. does not accept permanent resident cards of foreign countries as an entry document. Therefore, permanent residents of VWP countries must use the passport of their home country. Example: A permanent resident of the United Kingdom (a VWP country), who is a Citizen of India (not a VWP country), must seek a U.S. visa and travel on his or her Indian passport.

Under Presidential Proclamation 9645, as amended, visa restrictions exist for certain visa classifications that are sought by nationals of seven countries.   The countries are Iran, Libya, North Korea, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, and Venezuela. Foreign nationals of these countries who possess dual nationality of a country not subject to the restrictions of the proclamation may travel to the United States using the passport, and other requisite documentation if applicable, needed for travel under the alternate nationality.

The general process of obtaining a U.S. visa is similar worldwide, however each embassy and consulate has its own specific procedure to request a visa interview, typically via an on-line or automated telephone system. Please consult your local embassy for details. General information on applying for a visa can be found at:

https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas.html

Online Visa Applications

To begin the application process, all Jamboree participants must complete the DS-160 visa application online and pay a $160 fee:

https://ceac.state.gov/genniv/

The Interview Process

In addition to correctly filling out the visa application form, the most important part of the process is the interview with a consular officer. Both youth and adult participants will be required to submit to a one-on-one interview. The interview likely will be conducted in English and parents or leaders will generally not be allowed to sit in on youth interviews. The officer will typically make a decision relatively quickly unless additional information is required.

The key issue, other than national security concerns, is the strength of the applicant’s ties to his or her home country. Consular officers are screening for individuals who may be using the Jamboree as a means to enter the United States and remain illegally after the event. Applicants should be prepared to demonstrate their motivation and financial resources to return home.

These include family reasons, education and career plans, and financial and other assets. Also, all Scouts and leaders should be familiar with the details of their travel plans. These include specific dates, airline arrangements, the location and general program of the Jamboree and touring plans (if any). Supporting documents may be useful. The Jamboree Management Team can work with NSOs to provide Letters of Invitation upon request. These letters may be helpful, but they do not replace the need for Scouts to prepare for the interviews.

In many countries it will be possible to schedule interviews as a group. However, each applicant may still be interviewed individually, potentially involving multiple consular officers making independent decisions. It is possible that the officers may compare notes after interviews to make consistent decisions on the group’s applications. Given that overnight travel may be required to an interview location, group interviews provide logistical advantages and are encouraged.

When to Apply

For contingents eager to begin the visa process, applications can be submitted and interviews scheduled now. However, beginning in January, details on the Jamboree will be distributed by the U.S. State Department to all embassies and consulates globally. At the same time, lists of Jamboree participants selected by each NSO can be posted on an internal State Department website as a reference for consular officers. This internal promotion coupled with contingent rosters should add to the credibility of Jamboree participants during the visa application process and is a sign of the special focus the U.S. State Department will place on the Jamboree.

Participant Registration Fee Refunds

The 24th World Scout Jamboree Executive Committee will review requests submitted by NSOs for credit/refunds of participant registration fees that are made because of the denial of a participant’s application for a nonimmigrant visitor (B) visa to attend the 24th World Scout Jamboree. No compensation for the Visa Applications fees nor Visa Issuance fees (if applicable) will be considered.

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