While the US travel ban was lifted earlier this month, US Consulates in India are yet to resume regular operations. If you're trying to get a US Visa appointment, this piece will tell you everything you need to know:
- Right now, US Consulates in India are giving priority to processing US Visa renewals using drop box.
- In-person appointments are available but in limited numbers. The main reason for this is the social distancing protocols being followed. This also translates to longer wait times.
- As of now, US Consulates will open around 50% of slots in November and December 2021. Further slots will be added based on demand.
- Currently, US Consulates prefer appointments booked for early 2022 instead of those reserved for later in the year.
- Only medical reasons and genuine emergencies account for Emergency Appointment booking. Weddings and visiting friends and family aren't considered emergencies.
- You cannot convert an in-person appointment to a Dropbox appointment or vice-versa. Your best bet is to stick to the appointment type you've been given.
F1 Visa Appointments
- US Consulates in India will spend November and December 2021 processing visa appointments for F1 and J1 Student Visa holders planning to go to the US for Spring 2021.
- If you're a student in the US on an Optional Practical Training (OPT) Visa and are planning to come to India for visa renewal, you can get it renewed using the Dropbox based on your eligibility. As slots are limited, consulates are suggesting that you avoid travel.
- You need to meet the vaccination requirements as listed by the CDC. If you have only one dose, you cannot travel to the US. Starting college in January is not considered an emergency to get an exception from the CDC for travel to the US.
- If you have a new I20 and SEVIS Number, your F1 Visa stamping is complete, and you have a valid F1 visa, you can travel to the US with the valid Visa, new SEVIS and I-20. If asked about the change, you might need to explain it to the officer when you enter the US.
H1B, L1, H4, L2 Visa Appointments
- US Consulates will process H1B, H4, L1 and L2 visa appointments as the next priority after processing students' F1 visas in November and December 2021.
- More H1B, H4, L1 and L2 visa slots will open from January 2022. The maximum slots will be given for Dropbox appointments.
- H & L Visa appointments will be a priority for consulates from January to May 2022.
- You cannot travel to the US with an expired H1B visa and an I-797 approval notice that is valid.
B1/B2 Visitor Visa Appointments
- B1/B2 Visitor Visa Appointments will be opening starting from January 2022 until May 2022. Most of these appointments will be primarily Dropbox appointments for renewals of B1/B2 visas.
- There will not be any appointments open for B1/B2 during Nov or Dec 2021
- US Consulates do not plan to give fresh or new B1/B2 appointments for visitors, including parents, during this period.
- B1/B2 Visa appointment slots for January to May 2022 will open in late November 2021/early December 2021. There are no specific dates, and you need to keep an eye out for when the slots open.
Vaccination requirements and NIE
- You can take any WHO or FDA approved vaccines for travel to the US. Covaxin and Covishield are both accepted.
- You need to be fully vaccinated as per CDC guidelines to travel to the US.
- If you need an exception from vaccination to travel to the US, you need to email the consulate on your situation after getting the US visa, and they will contact the CDC to get you the exception. This is hard to get. So getting vaccinated is a better option.
- You don't need National Interest Exception(NIE) to travel to the US.
- There is no quarantine after you enter the US if you've been vaccinated.
- COVID testing requirements for children to enter the US are the same as the adult they are accompanying. If the adult gets a test within 72 hours, the child can also get it within 72 hours. But, if the child is travelling alone, they need to get it within 24 hours as per standard CDC guidance for unvaccinated individuals.
- Indian vaccination certificates are valid. They need the date of birth for validation. So, please carry the date of birth proof documents like Aadhar Card or passport.
221(g) Cases Stuck, issued during Travel Ban
- If you have received 221(g) for administrative processing during the travel ban, the consulates will process your case soon.
- You do not have to pay MRV or Visa fee for the processing of 221g cases. Also, there may not be a need to fill the DS 160 again. This will be confirmed by the consulate based on your case. It's best to wait for consulate guidance on the same.
We'll publish more updates as and when we receive them.