The US embassy and consulates in India have finally opened up interview slots for new visa applicants after a two-year hiatus. But the US Embassy in India also cautioned that it will not be able to accommodate travellers before their scheduled departure dates because of the high volume of visa applicants.
“Visa appointments are now open for all categories! But because of high demand, wait times remain significant,” the US Embassy India tweeted on September 27. The demand for appointments is high across all visa categories and wait times may be prolonged for the majority of routine non-immigrant visa appointments at the US Embassy New Delhi and the consulates in Chennai, Hyderabad, Kolkata and Mumbai. This is because of reduced staffing and numerous pandemic-related disruptions to its operations since March 2020.
According to the US State Department website, the waiting period for Indians looking to secure a visitor visa to the US has gone up to 800 days, while it is 400 days for student/exchange visitor visas and other non-immigrant visas.
The US embassy said however that they were working diligently to restore all routine visa operations as quickly and safely as possible.
Also read: US Embassy in India opens interview portal for student visa applicants
What the new announcement says
The US Embassy in India has said that till the end of December 2022, some types of visa applicants do not have to appear in person for an interview. In short, the in-person interviews for certain categories of visa applicants has been waived.
This new authorization applies to travellers applying for F, H-1, H-3, H-4, non-blanket L, M, O, P, Q, and academic J visas, who were previously issued any type of visa, if they are applying for a visa in their country of nationality or residence. But this is not applicable to applicants who have already been denied but the rejection was not later overturned or waived.
Consular authorities who want extra information from applicants may ask for a face-to-face interview. Candidates who renew any visa within 48 months of its expiration are still qualified for the interview waiver.
Validity of fee payment extended
This new announcement also deals with the issue of visa application processing fee that has already been paid by the applicant who has still not got an interview slot.
The US missions then will extend the validity of payment (known as the MRV fee) until September 30, next year. This will only apply to those applicants who were unable to get a visa appointment due to the suspension of routine consular operations. They can now schedule and/or attend a visa appointment with the already paid fee.
Also read: H-1B operation has not kept pace with countrys needs: US commentator
Application in drop box
Consular sections across India are now accepting a limited number of drop box applications for renewals of H, L, C1/D, O, I, F, M, and J visas at Visa Application Centers.
If you want to expedite your appointment
There is also a possibility to speed up your appointment which can be done with a request through the embassy’s online appointment system. However, you must already have a confirmed interview appointment date in the first place in order to ask for the appointment to be expedited.
If the expedited appointment request is approved, the applicant will be notified with instructions via email.
But the embassy cautions the applicant not to cancel an existing appointment until they receive a confirmation that their expedite request has been approved. If the person does not receive an approval or denial, it means that the request is still under consideration.
Meanwhile, the US Mission to India has invited visa applicants to join a Facebook and Instagram Live session hosted by the Minister Counsellor for Consular Affairs, Don Heflin, on September 29 at 3 pm on the current operating status and visa processing in consular sections across India.
Visa appointments are now open for all categories! But because of high demand, wait times remain significant. Join us Thursday, Sept 29 at 3 pm IST on U.S. Embassy India’s Facebook & Instagram pages for a candid chat with our Minister Counselor for Consular Affairs, Don Heflin. pic.twitter.com/EgBW3g5CFo
— U.S. Embassy India (@USAndIndia) September 27, 2022