Update on U.S. Visa Processing in India03 Nov 2022
Mr. Don Heflin, the Minister Counselor for Consular Affairs at the U.S. Embassy in India, recently conducted a question-and-answer session to update the public on the state of visa appointments at U.S. consulates in India.
Mr. Heflin noted that staffing levels at the consulates have been an ongoing issue, with the consulates in India staffed at about 70 percent of pre-COVID levels. He hopes the consulates will return to being fully staffed within a year. In the meantime, the U.S. Department of State (DOS), which has jurisdiction over all U.S. consulates, is in the process of transferring some staff to the consulates in India temporarily to help with the backlogs in visa appointments.
Mr. Heflin stated that U.S. consulates in India have issued more than 82,000 student visas this year, adding that, for the first time ever, more Indians have been granted student visas than foreign nationals from any other country. He also explained that additional student visa interviews will be conducted from mid-November through the end of December 2022. Some of these appointment slots opened in October, with additional slots to be released in mid-November.
The longest appointment wait times are for first-time B-1/B-2 visa applicants. Mr. Heflin indicated that the consulate is working to reduce these wait times, along with wait times for other visa categories. In the meantime, he suggested that applicants should schedule the earliest appointment available, even if the date is a long way off. If the individual later finds an earlier appointment date, the applicant can reschedule for the earlier date.
H and L Visas
For interview waiver or “drop box” cases, Mr. Heflin stated that thousands of appointments were being made available for H and L visa applicants for 2023. He noted that an applicant can check the website two or three times per day to see if any new appointment slots have opened.
Mr. Heflin stated that the U.S. consulates in India have been receiving hundreds of expedite appointment requests every week and, given this high volume, only those applicants who strictly quality for an expediated appointment will be granted one. The criteria for expedited appointments include attending the funeral of an immediate family member, a medical emergency pertaining to an immediate family member, or the need to attend a truly urgent business matter.
Third Country Nationals
Indian residents may be permitted to apply for visas at a U.S. embassy in another country if that embassy is currently accepting third country nationals. Mr. Heflin stated that an applicant’s chances are better if the applicant is a drop box renewal case, as applying for a visa as a third country national tends to have a greater risk of denial. Also, in many cases, Indian nationals likely will need a visa to enter the third country even just to apply for the visa appointment.
The backlogs at U.S. consulates have been an ongoing problem since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. While it is encouraging that wait times have been reduced, it still may take many months to get this situation fully under control. Things are moving in the right direction. We appreciate the steps being taken to alleviate visa appointment backlogs.
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