Recently, Don Heflin, Minister Counselor for Consular Affairs, sat down for a Q&A session at the Chennai Consulate and answered some burning questions about the upcoming Visa application and appointment process. This discussion also marks the 75th anniversary of diplomatic relations between India and the US.
Some of the important announcements made during the session:
- Over the next 12 months, around 800,000 Visas will be issued
- If you want an H1B or L1 Visa and have never had one before, you need an interview, and you can get that in Chennai during the first week of July
- If you have a blanket L Visa and you can come in for an interview, you can get that in the middle of June
- If you have a B1 B2 tourist Visa and qualify for the dropbox, you can come in the third week of July
- If you have an F1 student Visa or one of the other types of student Visas, and you qualify for the dropbox, you can come in the middle of June
- Right now, L and H non-interview cases, dropbox cases are not available, but some will open up in the coming weeks
- In the next few weeks, there will be 500 appointments per day starting September 1 for B1 B2 applicants
A brief download about the Q&A Session
Dropbox renewals. When do you think more slots will open up?
Washington has asked us not to announce when we are opening in advance. It will be sometime next week. Last year, we did it with students who accidentally crashed the worldwide visa system. We are also trying to weed out people who book a bond of appointments and then sell those slots for money.
I am an Indian citizen residing outside India. Can I apply for a B1 B2 Visa?
It depends on where you reside, not the passport you carry. For example, if you live in Barbados or England, and the Visa consoles there would be okay with you to decide you are a good candidate for a Visa, you can apply there. Don't come back to India and apply for a Visa, as you will be more eligible for a Visa from your residing country.
When do you think Visas and consulates will return to normal operations?
With a bit of luck, sometime in mid-late 2023.
What about students who were interviewed and rejected for the first time?
The policy changes are happening because we want the summer to look like the last summer. Last year, we had a high issuance rate, and this year, we hope to see the same. The reason being we had an excellent batch of students last year. Because of the Delta variant, we didn't open up till June 14. But this year, we are opening the interviews from mid-May.
Your best chance is to get finalized during your first interview, as the chances of getting accepted during your second or third interview go down significantly.
Will the F1 Visa interview be waived for an Indian student who already has a B2 visa?
Washington has authorized some exciting opportunities for people who get Visas without an interview. One is the H1B and L1 Visas on a dropbox basis. The other one is for students applying for F1 Visas. So yes, if you are a student in the US right now, or if you have had a B1 B2 Visa in the past, you can go online and ask for a dropbox slot for your F1 Visa application.
My B1 B2 Visa expired last June in 2021. Can this be renewed now?
Yes. Another significant change brought by Washington is that your Visa can be valid anytime in the last four years. So even if your visa expired in 2020, you are eligible for the dropbox.
Can you open dropbox appointments for blanket L applicants?
Unfortunately, blanket L Visa holders have to come in for interviews.
What kind of additional documents are necessary for an F1 Visa interview?
It would help if you had your I-20 high school certificate. But most importantly, you have to explain why the school and curriculum of your choice make the best sense to you.
Will you ever be able to allow dropbox submissions without an appointment like pre-Covid?
No, that is gone with the past. We will never be able to do that for technical reasons.
Many of us with children would like to travel for Visa stamping during school and summer vacations in June and July so that our children can be back on time to start their new grade. Can you tell us if you will be able to increase the dropbox slot availability for those months?
No, we are maxed out right now.
Embassies are overwhelmed with many applications, but is there any update on the backlog issue in the coming months?
We don't know what the backlog is. Practically speaking, if you were offline for almost two years, the backlog is the number of people who couldn't apply for Visas. The backlog is not bad in the categories we are opening interviews for right now.
In January, I filled out my DS-160, and my daughter turned 14 in March. Do I need to cancel her appointment and make an in-person appointment for her?
Yes, I need to do that. It depends on the category of visa you have applied for. If it's others, it may be more doable. But if it's B1 or B2 Visa, it might be problematic.
What about P Visa classes? Are there any plans to open for P Visas?
We will double-check and get back to you. If we are not open, we will do something about it soon.
New B2 Visas will start from September 1?
Yes. It's going to start on September 1.
Why aren't your consulates operating at a full scale?
We have had trouble hiring people, training people, and moving people from India worldwide. And we are rebuilding business. Now, we are focusing on miracles with half of our staff. So obviously, we are facing many challenges, but we hope to get back on our feet soon. We are hoping to be back better than before by 2023, but it will not be full force.
When will the student Visa slots open in May?
Not May, but June 1 will be the first date.
How do I get an emergency appointment?
When we open up many slots starting September 1, you no longer have to book a fake placeholder slot. You can book a confirmed appointment. Then you come here with an expedited request on our website, and if you get an expedited approval, you come in earlier. If you don't, you can come on the date.
Can I get an emergency appointment to attend graduation?
No, because we have to prioritize the Visas we give out to people.
Why do we get locked out for 72 hours after trying to book appointments multiple times?
Many of you guys have to move online when applying for appointments. So if you refresh more than a certain number of times, the computer thinks you are a robot, and you will get locked out.
Is there a travel request where one can pay more for a Visa appointment?
We would like to think that we are an egalitarian society. So this is not about the money and is about fairness. Specific travel purposes will get our attention, but offering more money will not get you a visa appointment.