Long road ahead: Staggering 500-day wait for US visa
Students and travelers seeking visa appointment to visit the United States (US) are bound to wait a minimum of nearly 500 days as pending applications keep piling up, according to the US State Department. So, if one applies for a visa appointment this month, they are likely to get a slot no earlier than March 2024, which still doesn't ensure issuance or guarantee availability of appointment.
- During the pandemic, especially the Omicron phase, a lot of working professionals and students had been sent home.
- The respective organizations are yet to recall staffers and resume operations in full swing.
- Umpteen students have applied for new courses which commence this fall and have been waiting for their visas, but see no ray of hope to join this session.
The barrage of pending applications is attributed to shortage of consular staff. A US embassy spokesperson said in a statement that the Department of State had doubled consular hiring and were training new employees. The US government is prioritizing repeat travel, implying that first time applicants would have to wait longer. Students, agricultural workers and key business travelers are also on the priority list.
"The US Department of State is committed to facilitating legitimate travel to the US... (It) is reducing appointment wait times in all visa classes as quickly as possible, worldwide. Visa processing is rebounding after a near-complete shutdown and freezing of resources during the Covid-19 pandemic."
The waiting duration in Delhi for visitor visa is 581 days and for student or exchange visitor visa is 479 days. The same for Kolkata is 587 days and two days. For Hyderabad it is 518 days and 479 days respectively. The number of applicants waiting for a US visa interview is four lakh, while for Canada it stands at a staggering 24 lakh.
Visa processing is witnessing a similar situation with Schengen states, Canada and UK, among others. An advantage with a US visa is that it provides a 10-year multiple entry at no additional cost. A Canadian high commission spokesperson said that 2021 saw around four lakh new residents to their country, of which 32% were Indian nationals.