Budget Cuts Likely to Create Travel Delays

The U.S. government budget cuts, known as sequestration, have dominated news reports in recent weeks. The cuts began on March 1, 2013, and many questions remain as to the impact on government operations and services. This summary of the available information from the U.S. Department of State (DOS) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) on the impact of sequestration on foreign travel is presented to help MurthyDotCom readers with any upcoming plans.

Background on Sequestration

As of March 1, 2013, $85 billion dollars in across-the-board government spending cuts are required under law. These cuts are the result of a 2011 law, which became effective due to the inability of the U.S. congress to reach an agreement on alternative legislation. As of this writing, there is ongoing political maneuvering and rampant speculation as to which government services will be cut, the impact on the U.S. economy, and how this issue will be resolved.

DOS Advises: Expect Visa Delays

The U.S. Department of State (DOS) addressed questions regarding how sequestration would impact visa processing at U.S. consulates abroad. While it is too early for the DOS to assess the precise impact, they are “fairly certain” that sequestration will result in reduced services at most U.S. consulates. Reduced services include adjudications on most visa applications.

The DOS referenced the significant effort expended to reduce visa processing waiting times, and predicted a possibility of significant reversals in this area. Prior to sequestration, the DOS had a surge in hiring within the visa adjudications area. They believe that this hiring has been good for the economy, facilitating travel to the United States. All such advances can be undermined by sequestration.

[The DOS WebSite provides information on waiting times for nonimmigrant visa applications at U.S. consulates].

CBP Belief of Port of Entry Delays

The Customs and Border Protection (CBP) anticipates making cuts in staffing at the U.S. ports of entry (POE). In FAQs posted on its website, the CBP clarifies that no reductions will be made to its anti-terrorism functions. However, cuts that must be implemented are expected to increase waiting times at various POEs (land ports, airports, and seaports).

Allow More Travel Time: Foreign and Domestic

CBP anticipates as much as a 50 percent increase in waiting times at major airports. These delays relate both to CBP operations as well as those of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). The delays apply to both foreign and domestic travel.

The same problems will be faced by those utilizing our major land border inspection points when traveling by car or on foot. The CBP advises travelers to allow more time in their itineraries to accommodate these delays.


It is clear that sequestration, if not addressed in the near future, will disrupt or delay many governmental functions. For travelers, it is going to be necessary to plan well in advance, and to expect delays during both TSA and CBP screenings. We will continue to share information on sequestration that is related to immigration functions, as it becomes available, to help MurthyDotCom readers plan accordingly.

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Disclaimer: The information provided here is of a general nature and may not apply to any specific or particular circumstance. It is not to be construed as legal advice nor presumed indefinitely up to date.