State Department Defends Visa Wait Times

At a briefing on November 17, 2022, the U.S. Division of State responded to criticism that wait instances have been too lengthy and have harmed employees, households and firms. The division cited knowledge displaying enchancment. Companies and attorneys have famous these enhancements, however issues with acquiring visas in India have been a severe challenge for the reason that Covid-19 pandemic began.

Visa Statistics

On the briefing, Deputy Assistant Secretary Julie Stufft cited statistics that confirmed a median worldwide wait time of seven days for college students and non permanent employees and two months for a vacationer visa (B1/B2), not counting those that can get hold of an emergency appointment. Nonetheless, the State Division web site lists the wait time for visa interview appointments in Mumbai (India) as 351 calendar days for H-1B or L-1 visas and 999 calendar days for customer visas (as of November 17, 2022). The wait instances are related at different U.S. consulates in India.

Stufft mentioned the methods to enhance the wait instances, together with at high-profile places. These have included bringing employees as much as pre-pandemic ranges; waiving the in-person interview requirement for a lot of college students, non permanent employees and people renewing visas, notably people who had prior journey to the USA; and “electronically sending visa purposes from sure abroad posts which have a excessive appointment wait time to different posts which have spare capability day-after-day.”

Stufft mentioned U.S. consular officers in China remotely adjudicate lots of of candidates from India (with waived interviews), and the same course of occurs with candidates from Mexico. “This permits our consular officers in locations like India and Mexico to concentrate on first-time and different visa candidates who do require an in-person interview,” she mentioned.

In response to a query about conducting extra interviews utilizing distant video know-how, akin to Zoom, Stufft mentioned the division opted towards it. She mentioned waiving interviews for sure individuals decreased the necessity for distant interviews, and for many who require an interview, they usually wanted to return in particular person to a consulate to offer biometrics, offering a time to conduct the interview.

Visa Revalidation

Analysts agree that permitting overseas nationals to revalidate visas whereas bodily inside the USA—a follow that led to 2004—would clear up many issues for visa holders. It will save them from journeys that would depart them stranded exterior the USA and ready months to acquire an appointment to return to their employer in America.

Deputy Assistant Secretary Julie Stufft mentioned on the briefing, “We’re actively pursuing this. I can’t offer you an replace on timing proper now, nevertheless it’s one thing that we’re actively engaged on.”

Stufft mentioned the logistical problems with visa revalidation. “We have to create a brand new consular part from scratch right here in Washington to have the ability to have that capability,” she mentioned. “And we now have to work out home cost for visa charges, which is one thing that clearly usually we don’t do.” She cited the necessity to broaden the flexibility to make use of know-how to handle a home validation program. “We speak extensively to trade and different stakeholders. And we now have the message loud and clear that this will probably be a useful gizmo.”

Some Indicators of Enchancment

Corporations and attorneys have seen enhancements, even when the progress has but to be throughout the board. “I do assume consular appointments are getting higher: We see a few months as a substitute of eight-plus months,” mentioned one know-how firm government. “I’m joyful to see they encourage candidates to use the place they’ll, even when not of their dwelling location. This was discouraged throughout Covid, so glad to listen to it’s again. Now we have utilized Mexico for a few of our Indian nationals for renewals. Visa revalidation can be superb. I’d like to see this occur.”

“It’s nice to listen to in regards to the progress that the State Division is making in lowering visa wait instances and increasing the usage of interview waivers,” mentioned William Inventory of Klasko Immigration Regulation Companions in an interview. “Simply a few months in the past, I used to be talking with an Indian-American doctor whose mother and father had not been in a position to go to their grandchildren right here for greater than two years due to the pandemic, however as a result of their customer visas expired, they had been going to have to attend till 2024 to get a customer visa appointment after they final checked. Any enchancment can be tremendously appreciated by households like that.”

Kevin Miner, a associate with Fragomen, additionally stays involved about visa processing in India. “The sensible actuality proper now could be that it stays very, very troublesome to acquire appointments in some places, particularly India,” he mentioned. “It merely isn’t possible for companies to attend till the autumn of 2023 (when State signifies they might be again to extra regular availability) to usher in key expertise. Many overseas nationals should not in a position to journey, lacking essential enterprise conferences and demanding household occasions. Folks with mother and father who’re fairly in poor health aren’t in a position to journey to see them, probably for the final time.”

William Inventory sees two different areas of concern. “First, whereas I applaud the expanded use of interview waivers, in lots of cases, we see that if an individual travels and is advised their visa interview is waived, however then for no matter motive their visa can’t be issued with out an interview, the particular person can languish exterior the USA for a lot of months with no information.” Inventory cited the instance of a consumer, an lawyer abroad, whose customer visa software has been in “a black gap.”

Inventory and different attorneys nonetheless see vital delays in scheduling appointments or acquiring selections on E visa purposes (for buyers in U.S. corporations and their workers). Inventory has a consumer ready since Might for a choice on renewing his E-2 visa, which implies his enterprise within the U.S. has been with no full-time supervisor.

The State Division has improved visa processing instances at many places. These in nations and visa classes nonetheless ready for enhancements hope their wait will finish.

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Jean Nicholas

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