The global demand for non-immigrant U.S. visas skyrocketed during the COVID-19 health emergency, when travel was halted and U.S. embassies and consulates closed. Even after reopening, U.S. embassies and consulates are still reporting significant delays in many locations including Brazil, India, Mexico, and others. More recently, the U.S. State Department announced that new processing initiatives, including Saturday visa appointments at some consulates in India, and more visa interview waivers, have addressed these delays. While the wait times at many consulates have dropped significantly, the wait time is still long and continues to affect business and leisure travelers. The most severe wait times often impact B-1 business and visitor visas, which the State Department has determined to be “lower priority” than other types of visas such as student or employment visas, such as the H-1B, L-1, and so forth. For example, the current wait time for a B-1/B-2 visa in Mumbai is 707 days; in Chennai, it’s 640 days. The wait period for H, L, O, P, Q visas is 69 days in Mumbai and 224 days in Chennai. Applicants can track general visa wait times on the State Department website.
Immigrant visas, otherwise called “green cards,” were also severely impacted by COVID-19 shutdowns but still remain at an all-time high, which is keeping families apart and businesspeople outside the United States. According to the State Department’s “National Visa Center (NVC) Immigrant Visa Backlog Report,” more than 400,000 cases are pending at the National Visa Center waiting for immigrant visa interviews at a U.S. consulate.
In a recent bipartisan letter to the State Department, U.S. Sens. Amy Klobuchar, Dan Sullivan, Jacky Rosen, John Cornyn, Cory A. Booker, and Jerry Moran stressed how these delays are severely impacting U.S. businesses and universities in the United States. This also has a financial impact on the nation. While the letter acknowledges the administration’s effort to decrease these wait times, it still urges the State Department to continue to take important steps to decrease the wait times even further and also requests that the State Department respond to these concerns by March 10, 2023.