Welcome back to the Immigration Lawyer Blog! In this video, attorney Jacob Sapochnick shares the most up to date information regarding the current status of U.S. visa services at U.S. Consulates and Embassies worldwide.
Many of our viewers have been asking us to provide a new update regarding visa operations in the year 2023. Here we provide a roundup of everything we know about this important topic.
Keep on watching to find out more.
As you might remember, the Department of State first suspended routine visa services at U.S. Consulates and Embassies worldwide during March of 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Slowly, but surely, Embassies and Consulates began a phased resumption of routine visa services, scheduling visa interviews according to local country conditions.
Today, Coronavirus restrictions have been lifted worldwide. Approximately 96 percent of U.S. Embassies and Consulates are interviewing visa applicants, while processing nonimmigrant visa applications at 94 percent of pre-pandemic monthly averages, and immigrant visa applications at 130 percent.
In the past 12 months (through September 30, 2022), DOS reported processing 8 million non-immigrant visas. The agency expects to soon meet or exceed pre-pandemic visa processing capacity.
The waiver of in-person visa interviews for several key visa categories has been an important part of driving down the substantial visa backlogs. For instance, DOS has been waiving in-person interviews for many students and temporary workers integral to supply chains. In addition, applicants renewing nonimmigrant visas in the same classification within 48 months of their prior visa’s expiration can apply for visas without an in-person interview in their country of nationality or residence. This has dramatically reduced the wait time for an interview appointment at many Embassies and Consulates.
The State Department estimates that 30 percent of worldwide nonimmigrant visa applicants may be eligible for an interview waiver, freeing up in-person interview appointments for those applicants who still require an in-person interview.
Visa Processing in 2023
What does visa processing look like in 2023?
Processing capacity is starting to rebound to pre-pandemic levels, however visa interview wait times still vary depending on the visa classification you are seeking and the Embassy or Consulate where you wish to apply. To combat lengthy wait periods at busy Consulates, the State Department has encouraged applicants who can travel, to apply at another Embassy or Consulate with a shorter wait time if an appointment is available outside your home country, and the Embassy will accept your application.
U.S. Embassy Manila, Philippines
The U.S. Embassy in Manila, Philippines resumed routine visa services in 2022, but visa interview wait times continue to be lengthy due to limited operational capacity and staffing limitations. Wait times are currently longer than pre-pandemic estimates due to previous shutdowns during the height of the COVID-19 restrictions.
According to its webpage:
“The U.S. Embassy in the Philippines provides all routine visa services. For some classes of visas, wait times are substantial. The Embassy continues to prioritize travelers with urgent needs and certain critical categories of visas…
The Embassy is increasing the number of routine visa appointments in all nonimmigrant visa classes starting in October 2022.”
Currently, they are processing immigrant visas that have been documentarily qualified as of the beginning of December of 2022 (IR-1 and CR-1), as well as nonimmigrant visa applications.
The current wait time to be interviewed for a B1/B2 tourist visa in Manila is over 18 months. A limited number of B1/B2 applicants are being interviewed each day. The Embassy notes “while we continue to expand our visa processing, please note that we have a significant backlog of cases so wait times are much longer than pre-pandemic times.”
Click here for Important Visa information from U.S. Embassy Manila.
U.S. Embassy Lagos, Nigeria
The U.S. Embassy in Lagos, Nigeria, is working at a limited capacity only due to staffing restrictions.
They are processing IR-1 and CR-1, cases that have been documentarily qualified and K-1 fiancé(e) visas that were documentarily qualified as of late November/early December 2022. Interviews are being scheduled based on their limited operational capacity.
Backlogs remain quite severe at this Embassy. On the plus side, the Embassy is responsive to email inquiries providing responses in less than 7 business days. Applicants are encouraged to follow up with the National Visa Center (NVC) to ensure their cases are documentarily qualified and/or all civil documentation has been received by the NVC.
U.S. Consulates Mexico
The U.S. Embassy and Consulates in Mexico are currently processing immigrant and nonimmigrant visas on a limited basis. Applicants should expect longer-than-normal wait times for visa interviews.
Applicants applying in the same visa class and whose previous visa expired within the last 48 months may be eligible for interview waiver.
The U.S. Consulate General in Ciudad Juarez has resumed routine immigrant visa operations, scheduling thousands of socially distanced interviews each week in ALL immigrant visa categories.
Note: Those who are required to apply for a hardship waiver of grounds of inadmissibility must wait for an approval before proceeding with the immigrant visa process in Ciudad Juarez.
K-1 Fiancé(e) Visas: K-1 applicants with cases at NVC are being scheduled for appointments at the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City in the order the cases were documentarily completed.
Click here for Important Visa information from the U.S. Consulates in Mexico.
U.S. Embassy London & Consulates in the United Kingdom
The U.S. Embassy and Consulates in the United Kingdom (London and Belfast) resumed routine visa services; however, visa interview appointments remain limited.
We are aware that London is accepting applications from third country nationals and remains in high demand. If your case is waiting for an interview in London, we encourage you to follow up with the National Visa Center (NVC) and the Embassy to ensure your case is documentarily qualified and all documentation for your case has been submitted prior to interview scheduling.
Recently, London has been responding to email inquiries within 14 business days.
From reports we have seen posted to our Facebook community, at least some CR-1 cases that were documentarily qualified as of late August 2021 and the beginning of September 2021, are being scheduled for interviews.
Since London is one of the busier Consulates, it is difficult for this Embassy to open enough interview slots to meet the high demand for visa interview appointments.
Due to London’s limited operational capacity, most documentarily qualified cases have remained warehoused at the National Visa Center due to the limited number of appointments available.
U.S. Embassy Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
The U.S. Embassy in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic is open and working at a regular capacity. The Embassy is processing both immigrant and non-immigrant visas, including IR-1 and CR-1 cases.
According to its webpage:
“The Immigrant Visa Unit is interviewing all categories of immigrant visas at this time.
The U.S. Embassy has resumed in-person interviews for tourist visa (B1/B2) applicants in a limited and gradual manner as staffing resources allow.
Please note that due to the backlog of visa appointment requests applicants should expect to experience delays in appointment availability and plan accordingly.
Applicants applying in the same visa class and whose previous visa expired within the last 48 months may be eligible for interview waiver.”
The Embassy is also accepting applications from third country nationals. As a result, many applicants (particularly nonimmigrant visa applicants) have been moving their cases to this Embassy, including O-1 and H-1B visa applicants.
Per their webpage:
“Non-Resident Applicants: Routine non-immigrant visa appointments for applicants not ordinarily resident in the Dominican Republic may be scheduled.
Please be advised, some foreign nationals need a Dominican visa to enter the Dominican Republic. Non-resident applicants should obtain their Dominican visa prior to paying the visa application fee and scheduling an appointment at the U.S. Embassy in Santo Domingo. Application fees are non-refundable. Please also note, applicants with non-immigrant visa applications at a different embassy who wish to apply at the U.S. Embassy in Santo Domingo must submit new applications and pay the application fees again.”
Click here for Important Visa information from the U.S. Embassy Santo Domingo.
U.S. Embassy Bangkok, Thailand
The U.S. Embassy in Bangkok, Thailand was one of the first to reopen and has fully resumed routine visa services. They have a large facility with more resources and personnel, which has allowed them to schedule more visa interview appointments.
With this Embassy, we have seen a lot of delays for K-1 fiancé(e) visa processing, however IR-1 and CR-1 cases that have been documentarily qualified are being scheduled for interviews and adjudicated quickly.
The Embassy continues to face backlogs with cases still being warehoused at the National Visa Center, while awaiting visa interview slots to become available.
It is our understanding that Bangkok is not accepting as many third-country nationals as they did before the pandemic due to the ongoing backlogs of its resident applicants.
Response times for email inquiries from this Embassy generally take less than 1 week.
Click here for Important Visa information from the U.S. Embassy Bangkok.
U.S. Embassies and Consulates Brazil
The U.S. Embassies and Consulates in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, Brazil have resumed routine visa services. However, because services in Brazil were suspended for a prolonged period of time due to the adverse impact of COVID-19, as well as the U.S. Presidential Proclamation restricting travel to the United States from Brazil, the Embassies continue to face substantial backlogs.
The Embassies are not currently accepting third country nationals.
According to its webpage:
“The U.S. Embassy and Consulates in Brazil have resumed routine nonimmigrant visa appointments.
Due to health and safety protocols, appointments may be limited. However, we are regularly adding new available appointments whenever possible. Be sure to check back frequently.”
We do not have information about the staffing at the Embassies in Brazil, but we do know that appointment delays continue to be an obstacle for applicants.
If you have a case in Brazil, you may consider the option of submitting an expedite and/or emergency appointment request, keeping in mind that expedites may take some time be reviewed.
The Embassy provides the following guidance regarding expedite interview requests
Expedited Interview Appointment
“When you request an expedited appointment, you will see the list of acceptable circumstances such as an immediate relative’s death, grave illness, or urgent medical treatment in the United States. To request an expedited appointment, first schedule a regular appointment on the closest available date. Then, sign-in to your account, click “Continue,” select “Request Expedite” and follow the instructions. The consular section grants expedited appointments at their discretion.”
Click here for Important Visa information from the U.S. Consulates Brazil.
U.S. Embassy Havana, Cuba
The U.S. Embassy in Havana is currently offering full immigrant visa services.
U.S. Embassy, Georgetown, Guyana remains the designated processing post for immigrant visa services for Cuban applicants whose cases have already been scheduled there.
Immigrant visa applicants who already received an appointment notice for an interview at U.S. Embassy Georgetown or U.S. Embassy Havana, must follow the instructions on their appointment letter.
For applicants who missed their appointment in Guyana, their immigrant visa will NOT be processed at the Embassy in Havana. Applicants can reschedule a missed appointment in Guyana through their registered account at https://ais.usvisa-info.com/en-gy/iv
Routine nonimmigrant visa services remain suspended.
Nonimmigrant visa appointments at U.S. Embassy Havana are only available to applicants under the following circumstances:
- Individuals applying for diplomatic or official (A or G) visas;
- The visa applicant has an emergency medical condition requiring medical treatment in the United States. This requires:
- A letter from a physician or medical facility in Cuba with a diagnosis of the applicant’s medical condition;
- A letter from a physician or medical facility in the United States stating:
- their willingness and ability to treat the applicant’s condition,
- the projected length of a course of treatment, and
- the cost of the treatment (including hospitalization fees, and all other medical related expenses); and
- Documentation of the funds the applicant will use to pay all costs related to her medical treatment and living expenses during his/her stay in the United States.
Click here for Important Visa information from the U.S. Embassy Havana.
U.S. Embassy Bogota, Colombia
The U.S. Embassy in Bogota, Colombia, has resumed routine visa services.
They are processing K-1 fiancé(e) visas, IR-1, CR-1, IR-5 visas, and nonimmigrant visa applications. Specifically, many H-1B visa applicants are being interviewed in Bogota.
We expect that processing times will continue to improve as time goes on, with more cases that are documentarily qualified being scheduled for visa interviews.
On the downside, Bogota is taking more than 30 days to respond to email inquiries.
U.S. Embassies and Consulates India
The U.S. Embassies and Consulates in India have reopened and resumed routine scheduling of appointments for all visa categories. They are processing IR-1, CR-1, K-1 fiancé(e) visas, and nonimmigrant visa applications, including F-1 student visas.
In fact, Mumbai was one of the largest in the world to issue F-1 student visas in 2022. We anticipate that this trend will continue in 2023.
For the moment, cases that were documentarily qualified in mid-December of 2022 are being scheduled for interviews.
The U.S. Embassies and Consulates in India normally provides responses to email inquiries in less than 14 business days.
Note for Immigrant Visa Applicants:
For immigrant visa applicants, the Embassy notes that follow-up or rescheduled appointments must be made through their website. Mumbai is adding appointments as often as they have availability. Visa applicants must follow the instructions provided for registering for appointments and monitor their email address for confirmation and further information.
Positive Developments in the Near Future
Recently, the media reported upcoming positive developments for visa processing at the US Embassy and Consulates in India, with the launch of several new initiatives that will decrease wait times across the country.
Mumbai’s Consular Chief John Ballard released a statement on the Embassy’s webpage indicating, “Our consular teams across India are putting in the extra hours to meet the needs of international travelers and bring down wait times. This is part of a mission-wide effort to find innovative solutions to facilitate travel to the United States.”
As part of these initiatives:
- Embassies in Delhi and consulates in Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata and Hyderabad will open on Saturdays to accommodate applicants who require in-person visa interviews.
- The consulate general in Mumbai has extended its operating hours on weekdays to make space for additional appointments.
- The State Department will soon increase the number of consular officers permanently assigned to offices in India.
- By March, it will incorporate dozens of temporary consular officers from Washington and other embassies to increase its processing capacity.
According to Ballard, “The US mission to India made it a priority to facilitate legitimate travel and adjudicated over 800,000 non-immigrant visas in 2022, including record numbers of both student and employment visas.”
It also released 250,000 additional B1/B2 visa appointments for visitors in 2022.
Click here for Important Visa information from the U.S. Consulates in India.
U.S. Embassy Islamabad, Pakistan
The U.S. Embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan, is working at a limited capacity.
The Immigrant Visa Unit is interviewing all categories of immigrant visas. However, significant backlogs remain major barriers for most visa categories and staffing shortages mean longer wait times for visa interviews.
Those facing a life-or-death emergency and need to request expedited processing, are encouraged to contact NVCExpedite@state.gov with their expedite request.
Applicants can check the status of an immigrant visa case, by visiting https://pk.usembassy.gov/visas/immigrant-visa-inquiries/
In terms of non-immigrant visa interviews, wait times are significant. Moreover, the rate of denials for B1/B2 tourist visas is very high in Islamabad.
However, Islamabad recently expanded interview waiver eligibility for Pakistani citizens who are renewing B1/B2 tourist and business visas. All Pakistani citizens, regardless of age, whose B1/B2 visas are valid or have expired within the last 48 months are eligible for interview waivers.
Click here for Important Visa information from the U.S. Embassy Islamabad.
U.S. Embassies and Consulates China
Due to the surge in COVID-19 cases, the U.S. Embassies and Consulates in China are not working at full capacity and are providing only limited visa processing services.
Currently, most posts operate solely on an emergency basis, causing very long delays. Most of our clients are opting to move their cases to other countries. Therefore, we encourage Chinese nationals to explore their options to apply for their visa at a neighboring post that will accept third country nationals.
U.S. Embassy Jakarta, Indonesia
The U.S. Embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia, is open and providing routine visa services. They are processing immigrant and nonimmigrant visa applications, including K-1 fiancé(e) visas, IR-1, and CR-1 cases that have been documentarily qualified.
We have seen an increase in K-1 fiancé(e) visa approvals from this post in the last couple of months.
Additionally, this Embassy is accepting applications from third country nationals. If you are a national of a neighboring country interested in moving your case to Jakarta, we encourage you to email the post beforehand to ensure they will accept your application and transfer the case there.
U.S. Embassies and Consulates Canada
The U.S. Embassies and Consulates in Canada are open and have resumed routine visa services on a limited basis.
Applicants continue to experience long visa interview wait times across the board in most visa categories, especially for E-2 visa investors.
IR-1 and CR-1 cases that have been documentarily qualified are being scheduled for interviews, however applicants continue to face long waiting periods.
Prior to the pandemic, Canada was a popular post for third country nationals. Currently, it is difficult to receive an appointment there as a third country national.
U.S. Embassy Tel Aviv, Israel
The U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv, Israel, has resumed routine visa services. They are processing and scheduling K-1 fiancé(e) visas, IR-1, CR-1 cases, and nonimmigrant visas including E-2 visas.
We have reports that the Embassy is accepting applications from third country nationals. Many of our clients from Eastern Europe have opted to move their cases to this post including K-1 fiancé(e) visas.
To find out more about the operational capacity of your U.S. Embassy or Consulate, please visit their website and click on “immigrant” or “nonimmigrant” visa on the navigational tab. Remember that you can contact the National Visa Center to ensure your case is documentarily qualified and inquire on its potential transfer to the Consular post abroad. If you believe that you are eligible for expedited processing of your case and/or emergency visa processing, we invite you to contact our office to evaluate your case and determine eligibility.
Contact Us Today. We hope that this information was helpful. If you have any further questions or would like to schedule a consultation, please text 619-483-4549 or call 619-819-9204.
- U.S. Embassies and Consulates
- NVC Contact Information
- Visa Appointment Wait Times
- USCIS FY 2024 H-1B Initial Registration Announcement
- February Visa Bulletin
- USCIS Processing Times
- Chats with Charlie YouTube Channel
- Immigrant Visa Backlog Report
- DOS Visa Services Operating Status Update
- ImmigrationU Membership
- Success stories
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