Travel plans, after a long gap due to COVID-19 restrictions, are back in full force. So much so that if you apply for a tourist visa to the US today, you might have to wait for as long as two years to get it, unless you have some jugaad to jump the queue. But it is not only the US, most popular destinations now require long waiting periods for visa approval. If you are planning a foreign trip soon, you would do well by planning and preparing for a long waiting period.
Call it revenge travel or post-COVID travel, travellers from across the country have been looking for a way to break the monotonicity, which started the mad rush for visas some two months ago. While the rush was around 4-5 months then, it has buoyed to a wait of over a year now.
The US State Department website shows a wait period of 582 calendar days for those applying for the B1-B2 visa, implying an appointment in 2024. Student visa applicants at the Delhi consulate will need to wait for 471 days. At the Mumbai consulate, the earliest appointment for tourist visas is available only on January 17 next year, but the wait for study visas is just 10 days.
While there is an option to seek expedited visas, it is only available for emergency medical care, deaths, appearance in a US court and for students with a recognised degree course beginning in 60 days.
The US Department told Business Today that they are aiming to reduce visa time but some applying for the first visitor visa might have to wait longer. “The Department of State 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. As part of this recovery, the US government is prioritising national-interest and repeat travel, which may mean that some travellers applying for their first visitor visa experience a longer wait time. Examples of priority groups include students, temporary agricultural workers, other workers, and key business travellers,” it said.
With such a backlog for the US, the Indian traveller is looking for easier options among overseas destinations, which has also seen a massive surge.
The wait time for a Canadian tourist visa is 158 days and for a study visa is 84 days, while you will have to wait for at least 50 days for a British visitor visa. The British High Commissioner to India has issued an advisory in this regard. Alex Ellis said in a video that the visa delays is due to the unprecedented surge in the demand for UK visa after COVID-19, and due to global events such as the Ukraine-Russia war. “You can help us by making sure that you have the paperwork right. And, my advice is don't commit to your air ticket until you have got your visa to be on the safe side,” he said.
But if the visa woes are acting as a dampener, there are always places Indians can travel without a visa, including Hong Kong, Maldives, Mauritius and several Caribbean countries like Barbados, Dominica, Grenada and Trinidad and Tobago. Visa on arrival is also available in destinations including Thailand, Seychelles, Qatar, Madagascar, Fiji and Indonesia.
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