People planning to visit the United States are in for a rude shock as they will have to wait till 2024 to get a visitor visa. NDTV checked the website of US State Department and found that the average waiting time was about one-and-a-half years, which means those planning to apply now will get an appointment for March-April 2024. The website shows that average wait for a visa appointment in the US consulate at New Delhi is 522 days for visitor visas and 471 days for student visas.
If the location is changed to Mumbai, the average wait time for a US visa appointment is 517 days for a visitor visa and 10 days for a student visa, according to the website. The waiting time for all other non-immigrant visas is 198 days in Delhi and 72 days in Mumbai.
In case of Chennai, the waiting time for visitor visa is 557 days for visitor visa and 185 days for all other non-immigrant visas. Those applying from Hyderabad will have to wait for 518 days, to get a visitor visa, according to State Department website.
"The estimated wait time to receive an interview appointment at a US Embassy or Consulate can change weekly and is based on actual incoming workload and staffing. These are estimates only and do not guarantee the availability of an appointment," the visa page on the website said.
Reacting to the reports about delays, the US embassy said that the Department of State is committed to facilitating legitimate travel to the US for both immigrant and non-immigrant travellers. "The US government is taking steps to reduce wait times and backlogs by actively addressing consular staffing gaps created by the pandemic, including by onboarding and training new employees. The Department of State has doubled consular hiring of US officers this fiscal year over last year, and newly trained employees are making their way to overseas consular adjudicator positions, including in India," the embassy spokesperson said in a statement.
"Visa processing is rebounding after a near-complete shutdown and freezing of resources during the COVID-19 pandemic. As part of this recovery, the US government is prioritising national-interest and repeat travel (for applicants who have already had a US visa), which may mean that some travelers applying for their first visitor visa experience a longer wait time," the statement further said.
The State Department, meanwhile, said that consular sections overseas may be able to expedite the applicant's interview date "if there is an urgent, unforeseen situation such as a funeral, medical emergency, or school start date".
VFS Global, a visa facilitating agency, said that there has been an unprecedented surge in visa application volumes in India and final decision rests with respective embassies. "VFS Global has maintained its standard turn-around-time of processing in one business day to send to respective embassies...Decisions on visa applications, and the timelines to process them, are at the sole discretion of the respective embassies/consulates," a VFS Global spokesperson said in a statement.
Earlier, some reports said that visa processing is taking longer for Schengen states, Canada and the UK too.
The delay in visa approval by Canadian authorities has got many people concerned, particularly in Punjab. Neetu Yadav, whose brother had applied for admission in a university in Canada, told NDTV that the academic session commences in September but there is no update on the visa status yet.
"My brother had applied for student visa for a course which starts next month and we don't have a visa yet. And there is no word whether it has been accepted or rejected. Even if we defer the admission, there is no guarantee if my brother will get a spot in the next session," she said.
As per a report of the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration, 41 per cent of study permit applications from India were rejected in 2021.
Canada has a backlog of more than 2.4 million immigration applications as of now. Immigration minister of Canada Minister Sean Fraser has assured in statements that they are hiring new people to clear these backlog cases. The Canadian government has also said that there is no discrimination against Indian students.