Are you planning to visit the US anytime soon? The good news is that after a two-year pause, the United States has finally opened up interview slots for new visa applicants. The visa appointments were closed for two years due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The US Embassy and Consulate of India on September 27 announced that they have finally opened up interview slots for new visa applicants.
The US Embassy of India tweeted, "Visa appointments are now open for all categories! But because of high demand, wait times remain significant. Join us Thursday, September 29 at 3 pm IST on US Embassy India's Facebook & Instagram pages for a candid chat with our Minister Counselor for Consular Affairs, Don Heflin."
Some of the highlights of the event were:
- H and L dropbox applicants who are stuck in the US with expired visas will be prioritized over others
- H and L visa types can skip the biometric process if they have had a visa in the past
- H and L slots for first-timers to open soon
- For B1 and B2, new slots will not open anytime soon
- Regarding F1 slots, the bookings will begin in mid-October, and appointments last till the end of December
- People who will need to travel for the funeral, medical emergencies, or important meetings will be prioritized for expedited visa slots
However, opening appointment slots doesn't mean one can go to the US immediately. The waiting period for Indians looking to go to the US for a holiday or a tour has gone up to 800 days, as mentioned on the department's website. Coming to student or exchange visitor visas and other nonimmigrant visas, the waiting period is around 400 days.
The Embassy noted that because of a fantastic volume of visa requests, they could not accommodate every traveler before their planned travel dates, even though the purpose of their travel is time sensitive.
The Embassy added that because of fewer resources and the pandemic-related disruption since March 2020, the appointment demands for US visas have skyrocketed at embassies like Chennai, Hyderabad, Kolkata, and Mumbai. Additionally, the B1 and B2 visas are kept for business and tourism.
How to check your status for your US visa slot?
If you have already paid for your visa slot, the US Mission will extend the validity of the payment, known as the MRV fee, until September 30, 2023. This is done so that all applicants unable to schedule a visa appointment because of suspension of services can reschedule or attend a visa appointment.
The Embassy released a statement, "The US 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 diligently restore all routine visa operations as quickly and safely as possible."
What are the waivers for different categories of the US visa?
The US Department of State has authorized zonal consular officers to waive the in-person interview requirement for specific categories of visa applications till December 31, 2022. The latest authorization applies to people applying for F, H1, H3, H4, non-blanket L, M, O, P, Q, and academic J visas or previously rejected and not waived.
Minister of External Affairs, S. Jaishankar, in his meeting with the US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken also mentioned the backlogs of visa applications from India. Jaishankar also mentioned that the visa backlog was a pivotal issue, especially after the pandemic, because it is essential, given how crucial it is to education, technology, business, and family reunions. Blinken agreed, and said he understood it was a sensitive matter and had a plan to address the backlog.
Indians make up for many H1B visa recipients and work visas granted to skilled foreign workers in many tech industries. The H1B visa is a nonimmigrant visa that allows US companies to employ foreign workers in specialty occupations requiring theoretical or technical expertise.