OHE Visa Application Centers
The US immigration law requires the interviewer to presume that all visa applicants are “intending to immigrate” to the US unless they can prove otherwise. Currently the US State Department requires that all visa applicants be interviewed in the same room with US Consular Officer. Under the assumption that the use of the latest Telepresence technology will be permitted, OHE recommends the US State Department authorize Telepresence (state of the art videoconferencing) interviews as a means of dramatically increasing the number of foreign tourists to the US.
Proposed Use of Videoconference/Telepresence Systems for Visa Interviews
OHE recommends the US Embassy and Consular offices be equipped with the latest in Telepresence technology in order to conduct telepresence visa interviews with applicants seeking to interview via videoconference. This will enable the visa applicants in cities that do not have an embassy or consular office to interview with a US consular officer via a telepresence system. The most recent telepresence technology is capable of providing the interviewing officer with the same level of control, security, including remote fingerprint capture, and careful scrutiny of interview applicants as an in person interview in the same room.
The difference between a videoconference system and a Telepresence system is primarily advances in technology. The videoconferencing systems of the 1990’s featuring the use of telephone company ISDN lines enabled “face to face” communications that left the users very aware of the technology, i.e., the slower frame rates, low quality video etc. The technology limitations were clearly visible to all participants and distracting for many.
With the continuing advancement of high speed data networks, video compression technology and audio technology companies like Cisco (www.cisco.com), introduced the concept of “telepresence”.
Cisco describes “TelePresence” technology as follows:
In the past, videoconferences in particular have been difficult to set up, challenging to use, and frequently unsatisfying in their ability to replicate in-person meetings and the benefits of face-to-face interaction.
To improve this situation, Cisco has developed an innovative solution that creates an "in-person" meeting experience over the converged network. Cisco TelePresence delivers real-time, face-to-face interactions between people and places in their work and personal lives using advanced visual, audio, and collaboration technologies. These technologies transmit life-size, high-definition images and spatial discrete audio. Now it's easier than ever to discern facial expressions for those crucial business discussions and negotiations across the "virtual table."
The evolution from videoconferencing to telepresence technology opens the door for the State Department to conduct “face to face” visa interviews using a telepresence system with the same level of effectiveness as in person interviews in an Embassy office.
US Embassy Telepresence Visa Interview Pilot
To validate the viability of using Telepresence to conduct visa interviews China USA Travel proposes the following steps:
- Setting up a telepresence visa interview process with the US Consulate offices in a non-consular office city for administering the visa applications of US bound tour group participants.
- Select approved tour companies located in cities that do not have US Embassy or US Consular offices to host telepresence equipment that will be used to communicate with a US Consular officer in a telepresence equipped location.
- Incorporate document sharing applications and other appropriate hardware that will enable the visa interview officer to obtain information and experience the visual intimacy required to replicate the in-person interview experience.
- Equip the remote agent’s telepresence system with the finger printing system equipment used by the State Department and Department of Homeland Security enabling the matching of fingerprint data captured during the interview process to be replicated at the US port of entry by customs and immigration officials.
- Train the telepresence host agents regarding the US visa application requirements and procedure to insure that telepresence interview applicants have met all of the requirements for being a tour group participant eligible to receive a visa prior to the interview appointment.
- Establish continuous learning procedures in order to adapt and change as needed to insure program success.
- Establish close coordination with the US State Department in all phases of the pilot.