United States (U.S.) Consul Affairs Chief Mr William Laidlaw yesterday said Nigerians overstay visits about seven per cent of the time.

Laidlaw spoke when the U.S. Consulate General in Lagos hosted reporters on a tour of consular activities.

He attributed visa officers’ mistakes to wrong information provided by so-called agents that claim to have special information about how to obtain visas.

Laidlaw warned Nigerians against patronising agents. He said the visa application process was straight-forward and all requirements provided on the consulate’s website.

He said: “As a member of the United States government, we make mistakes.

“The reasons why we make mistakes are those that have to do with visa services advising people to do incorrect things – that has to do with the way people present themselves and information to us.”

Contrary to popular belief of high denial rates, Laidlaw said non-immigration visas were issued about 60 per cent of the time.

“In actuality, the non-immigrant visa acceptance rate here is between 52 and 58 per cent. If we include the immigrant visas, we approve almost 70 per cent of our applications here in Lagos. So there is a lot of myth outside, mostly negative, about us,” he said.

He also noted that Nigerians overstay in the United States when they visit about seven per cent of the time.

Laidlaw said the overstay rate for the 21 countries on waiver list was less than three per cent.

In the past five years, despite the stoppage of the U.S. Diversity Visa Lottery, the Consular chief said visa applications increased by 179 per cent. Each day, he said, the Consular attended to an average of 1,100 applicants. Last year alone, 240,000 applications were received.

Speaking on visa interview tips, Acting Non-Immigrant Consular Chief Amanda Roberson said the visa interview was less about documents and more about conversation with consular adjudicators.

Journalists observed the visa officers at work.

Some applicants, who spoke to The Nation about the process, said it was straight-forward but for the delays in scheduled time.

Mr Femi Owolabi, a first applicant, who got visa to travel with his wife, Tolulope, and baby girl, Nifemi, said he was scheduled for 9.30am but did not get to do his interview at that time.

However, he said he did not have to queue because of his daughter.

Another applicant (names withheld), who was denied a visa, said he used an agent for the application process.

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