Visa appointment wait times have continued to skyrocket over the past few months, with some appointment wait times extending over 800 days – well over 2 years. With a wait time of over 2 years just to get an appointment, many are concerned about whether or not they’ll be able to obtain a visitor visa in the near future to visit family and friends, or travel for work, medical, or other reasons.
On September 29, 2022, the Minister Counselor for Consular Affairs, Don Heflin, held a Facebook Live event at the U.S. embassy in New Delhi to answer questions regarding the increasing visa appointment wait times in India. Key issues were discussed, including changes that are being implemented to lower the visa appointment wait time and whether or not more appointments will be opening up in the near future.
Current Visa Appointment Wait Times
Here are the key takeaways from the Facebook Live event held by the U.S. embassy in New Delhi:
- 82,000 student visas were issued over the summer of 2022, which means that more Indian students are headed to the U.S. than any other country for the first time ever.
- Due to COVID-19, only 50% of the typical amount of workers were actively working at U.S. Visa Consulates in India – this is now up to about 75% and is growing steadily.
- U.S. embassies are aiming to be up to 100% staffing at this time next year. When this is reached, they will be able to handle even more cases than before the pandemic.
- The problem with visa appointment wait times is not just in India – it is currently a worldwide issue greatly due to the COVID-19 global pandemic.
The U.S. embassy in New Delhi acknowledges the extremely long wait time for a visa appointment, and says that it is working on changes that will eventually help to bring wait times down significantly.
H & L Visas
The main concern for most with H & L visas is the inability to come home and see family members. H & L dropbox visa appointments currently have a bit of a shorter wait than B1/B2 visas for first timers. Don Heflin reports that they will open up 100,000 new visa appointments for 2023 for H & L visas within the next few weeks. The U.S. embassy in New Delhi advises those who are waiting for an appointment to check their website every few hours for new appointments.
The embassies are working on getting the wait time down for L1 visas, but it is advised to take the nearest appointment available and to keep checking for new appointments to see if an earlier opens up – you can always move up your appointment sooner if one is available. In a few weeks, many more L1 visa appointments will be available.
The current longest wait time for appointments right now is for first time B1/B2 applicants. The U.S. embassies in India are working diligently to reduce the wait times for these categories but opening up new appointments and adding more personnel to their staff.
For fees, an announcement will be made soon, but anyone who paid a fee for their appointment during covid just needs to book an appointment within the next year to keep their payment valid. The appointment doesn’t have to be within the next year, but the act of booking an appointment has to be.
Slows will open up for student visa appointments for Spring applicants in the first half of October and second half of November. F1/F2 visas appointments will open up at the same time, while J visas will open up separately from F visas and will only have a small number available each week.
Don Heflin reported during their Facebook Live event that there have been a ton more requests for expedited appointments coming through, and to make sure you qualify before requesting for expedition. For more information on the qualifications required for an expedited appointment and how to apply, see here.
Due to the extensive amount of expedited requests that the U.S. embassies in India are receiving, it is very difficult for them to be approved. Even attending family weddings or graduations are being denied at this point in time. The only requests that are typically getting approved are those that require travel to see a dying or hospitalized family member, or to attend the funeral of a loved one. B1/B2 dropbox visas are more likely to have their expedited request approved due to already having a visa prior.
Secure a Visa Appointment in India for 2023
The biggest takeaway from the Facebook Live event is that hundreds of thousands of appointments for 2023 will be opening up within the next few weeks. The consulate recommends checking their website every day to check for new appointments to snag them as soon as they become available.
NOTE:It is recommended to book the earliest appointment you can find in the meantime, and then consistently look for a sooner appointment. Appointments can always be moved up if you are able to get a sooner one, and that way you are covered for an appointment no matter what.
Check back soon for an update on visa wait times after more appointments open up throughout October and November.