US State Department Addressed Excessive US Visa Waiting Time

US State Department Addressed Excessive US Visa Waiting Time

At a briefing, the US Department of State responded to criticism that wait times have been too long and have harmed workers, families, and companies. 

The delays for visa applications have gone up due to reduced workforce and coronavirus-related restrictions in operations since March 2020.

The US department cited data showing improvement stating that “The Department of State is successfully lowering visa interview wait times worldwide.”

Businesses and attorneys have noted these improvements, but problems with obtaining visas in India have been a serious issue since the Covid-19 pandemic started.

Application Data 

At the briefing, Deputy Assistant Secretary Julie Stufft cited statistics that showed a median worldwide wait time of seven days for students and temporary workers and two months for a tourist visa (B1/B2), not counting those who can obtain an emergency appointment. 

Stufft discussed the strategies to improve the wait times, including at high-profile locations.

These have included bringing staff up to pre-pandemic levels, waiving the in-person interview requirement for many students, temporary workers, and those renewing visas, particularly individuals who had prior travel to the United States, and “electronically sending visa applications from certain overseas posts that have a high appointment wait time to other posts that have spare capacity every day.”

Stufft said US consular officers in China remotely adjudicate hundreds of applicants from India (with waived interviews), and a similar process happens with applicants from Mexico. 

Emergency Appointments

According to a tweet by the US State Department “Emergency appointments are available within days for applicants who meet the criteria. We are committed to reducing wait times as quickly as possible.”

As per the report, the US is giving priority to some visa categories due to a large number of visa applications across all categories. 

This includes students during the admissions season, followed by drop box cases for skilled workers, repeat B-1/B-2 visa applicants (whose visas expired within four years of their initial application and now qualify them for an interview waiver), and crews. 

The US reportedly anticipates a faster recovery than expected in the processing time and expects a return to pre-pandemic levels by the end of the fiscal year 2023. 

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