US Visa - Current Situation
This year, India has witnessed the second wave of Covid-19. The damage is far more serious and worse than the previous year. This has had a significant affect on people looking to book their visa appointment at the US embassy. Especially students applying for the F1 visa, as universities in the US will start classes in the month of August. With two employees dead and over a 100 down with COVID-19 in the US Embassies in India the, offices and embassies for the US Consulate have decided to suspend routine operations to avoid further spread of the virus, however emergency services will still be continued.
Different US Consulate locations have announced different timeframes for which they will not be functioning, eg. All US Visa appointments in Mumbai are cancelled till May 28, 2021 , while the consulates at Delhi, Chennai, Hyderabad and Kolkata are suspending services till May 15th, 2021.
This has caused a lot of inconvenience to students who are yet to and those who have already applied for Fall ‘21 intake in US universities for their MS and MBA and are awaiting their visa appointments. Currently no information has been released on rescheduling those interviews which were already scheduled for these cancelled dates.
Applied for a US visa ? Some actionable steps for you
Students who already have a visa appointment can apply to get expedited appointments if their I-20 form has a start date that is earlier than the first available visa appointments. The essential document required to get this appointment includes original I-20 form indicating the start date of the program within 60 day. Students can apply for Expedited appointments/ emergency visa if they have not been refused a US visa in the previous six months. Confirmation mail will be received in 3-4 days via mail. This request, however, may not be entertained by the consulate, who are currently working with a skeleton workforce.
You can also reach out to your university point of contact and explain the current issue and highlight your concerns. Universities may be able to help you out - some of them have already written to the respective US Government agencies requesting a visa interview waiver or an online interview process. They may already have a stopgap solution considering the same situation had occurred in 2020 .
Situation last year for Spring ‘21 intake
Last year, when a similar situation occurred ]e the US embassy dedicated a week for F1 visa appointments. November 16-20 last year was declared as a “Student Visa Week” to honour International Education Week. Non immigrant visa appointments were scheduled exclusively to students on a first come, first serve basis.
This year, a similar recourse was recently announced by the embassy where the US Visa Office will open for a few days to exclusively facilitate student visas.
We advise students not to panic, or defer just yet and wait for an official announcement from the US Embassy. Meanwhile students can focus on getting their required finances, setup their US bank accounts and get other prerequisites in place. Zolve wishes you a safe, healthy and productive year ahead.
Update 01 May 21: The US has initiated a travel ban on flights from India. Students commencing studies in Fall '21 may be exempted from the ban