Even with the opening of U.S. borders over a year ago in November of 2021, the travel and tourism industry has remained at a standstill due to the excessive wait times for visitor visas around the globe. With an average wait time of over 400 days for a visa appointment in the largest countries for inbound travel, getting a visitor visa takes longer than ever before. The U.S. Travel Association is calling this long visa wait time the “equivalent of a travel ban”, forcing potential visitors to choose other countries.
As reported in our Current Visa Wait Times article for October 2022, visa appointment wait times are at an all-time high, with some wait times in India exceeding over 900 calendar days. This means that if you were hoping to get a visitor visa to visit family, you may have to wait just under 3 years in order to get an appointment for your first-time visa application. This isn’t just happening in India, either. Brazil, Mexico, and other countries that have high travel rates to the US have extremely long visitor visa wait times as well.
The wait times at each consulate around the world depends upon a number of factors, including resource availability at each individual consulate and the demand for nonimmigrant visas in a particular area. The increase in wait times is a sign that there is an urgent need for something to be done in order to help solve this growing issue.
Due to these increasing visa wait times, the tourism industry in the U.S. is hurting. It is estimated that the United States will lose over 7 million potential visitors in 2023. Inbound travel is also projected to remain lower than pre-pandemic numbers, which can have devastating effects on the U.S. tourism industry overall. Additionally, the inability to receive a timely visa appointment is affecting those who are hoping to visit family overseas or need to travel for business purposes.
During the week of November 28, 2022, the U.S. Travel Association reports that they will begin a new campaign to bring attention and awareness to the excessive visa wait time. A website will be launched that will focus on the following:
- Ask global travels to share their experience about waiting for U.S. visitor visas
- Invite small business owners/managers in the U.S. to share missed business opportunities as it relates to fewer international visitors
- Provide fact sheets and data detailing the effect that the excessive wait times have on US economic losses
- Highlight policy priorities which should be focused on to help the backlog and expedite the visa appointment process in key inbound travel countries
The hashtag #TheyWaitWeLose will also be used to help support this cause.
Potential solutions that the U.S. Travel Association says will greatly assist in reducing the visa backlog include:
- Set clear timelines for how the U.S. will eventually reach timely and efficient visa processing
- Increase staffing and resources at U.S. consulates and embassies
- Pass legislation to make the visitor visa process more modern and efficient
According to the U.S. Embassy India’s Facebook page, the initial batch of additional appointments released in October/November 2022 filled extremely quickly, and it is unlikely that there will be another batch for appointments in 2022. They urge applicants to continue checking, however, in case of cancellations. They also report that they are currently increasing resources and will open up more appointments at India U.S. consulates as capacity allows.
If you need to travel urgently, you may be able to receive an expedited appointment. On the USTravelDocs website, you can view the requirements for being eligible for an expedited appointment. Reasons can include emergency medical care, funerals, or needing to make a U.S. court appearance. It has been reported that U.S. consulates are denying requests for expedited appointments for weddings, graduations, and other non-emergency travel reasons.
For more information regarding current visa wait times, visit the travel.state.gov website and search your nearest consulate or check back for updates on Path2USA. We also encourage you to follow and interact with the U.S. Embassy India’s Facebook page where they host Visa Fridays to answer questions from their followers.