After closing the visa appointments for two years due to the pandemic, the US Embassy and Consulates in India on September 27 announced that it has finally opened up interview slots for new visa applicants.
"Visa appointments are now open for all categories! But because of high demand, wait times remain significant," the US Embassy India tweeted.
However, the opening of appointment slots doesn’t mean one can go to the US for a visit right away. The waiting period for Indians looking to visit the US for a holiday or a tour has gone up to 800 days, as per the US State Department website. For student/exchange visitor visas and other non-immigrant visas, the waiting period is nearly 400 days.
The embassy, however, noted that due to the high volume of visa requests, it cannot accommodate all travellers prior to their planned travel dates, even if the purpose of travel is time sensitive.
As the demand is very high after two years, the US embassy has directed the travellers planning to apply for a non-immigrant visa to reach the US as a temporary visitor to recheck the current wait time for an interview using a tool on the website.
The embassy added that due to a staff shortage and pandemic-related disruptions since March 2020, appointment demand for visas is high across all categories and wait times may be longer for most routine non-immigrant visa appointments at the embassy in New Delhi and the consulates in Chennai, Hyderabad, Kolkata, and Mumbai. The B1 and B2 visas are for business and tourism purposes.
How to check your status
Fee paid, slot not assigned
If one has already paid the fee, as per the website, the US Mission will extend the validity of payment, officially known as the MRV fee, until September 30, 2023, so that all applicants, who were unable to schedule a visa appointment due to the suspension of the services, can reschedule or attend a visa appointment.
"The U.S. Embassy and Consulates in India understand that many visa applicants have paid the visa application processing fee and are still waiting to schedule a visa appointment. We are working diligently to restore all routine visa operations as quickly and safely as possible," the embassy said.
Waivers for certain categories
The US Department of State has authorised zonal consular officers to waive the in-person interview requirement for certain categories of visa applicants through 31 December 2022. This new authorization applies to travellers applying for F, H-1, H-3, H-4, non-blanket L, M, O, P, Q, and academic J visas, who were previously issued any type of visa. The authorisation is not for those who were previously rejected and were not subsequently waived.
It is to be noted that on Tuesday External affairs minister S. Jaishankar in his meeting with the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken raised the issue of the backlog of visa applications from India. Jaishankar said that the visa backlog was a crucial issue pots pandemic given its centrality to education, technology, business and family reunions. Blinken on his part said he is sensitive to the matter and had a plan to address the backlog.
Indians make up a large proportion of the recipients of H-1B and other work visas granted to skilled foreign workers, many in the tech industry. The H-1B visa is a non-immigrant visa that allows US companies to employ foreign workers in specialty occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise.
(With agency inputs)
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