The backlog issue is not only unfolding in New Delhi and Mumbai, but at all US embassies globally
Those who were on visas in the United States and had to travel during the middle of the pandemic back in 2020, must have thought that it was the worst time to travel.
Only if, they had foreseen that things would continue to look glum even as we reach mid 2022. Work based visa holders from India and those who wish to obtain a new B1/B2 visa or renew an expired one, continue to face challenges when it comes to traveling to the US.
Read: Appointments for B1/B2 US visitor visa opening in January (December 1, 2021)
Individuals have to encounter massive waits before they can secure an appointment at a consulate or can make use of the drop box facility that was initiated to ease the Covid induced backlogs.
New York based Dilli Raj Bhatta, co-founder and lead attorney at Apply USA Visa, says the biggest issue is that the individuals are not getting appointments to get their visas stamped on time.
Additionally, the drop box system is not effective and interviews are not being scheduled promptly. The B1/B2 visas, in any case, can take up to 14 months before applicants get an appointment with the consulate, he says.
Things look less than encouraging for work based visa holders too. Even those with approved work petitions are unable to move ahead to join their work or jobs.
“Even for the approved employment visa petitions, the consulate is heavily backlogged and interview appointments are not readily available, contrary to what the State Department website states,” Bhatta says. “The applicants have to wait for months or sometimes even up to a year or longer.”
The drop box visa facility which was initiated to help these backlogs seems to be ineffective too. Bhatta says, “The drop box visa facility was supposed to be fast and benefit those beneficiaries and petitioners who had to travel back and forth to the United States.”
“It was meant to facilitate them to just drop off their passport and collect their visas to avoid all administrative delays,” he says. “Even that has not been working for some of our clients and I am constantly coordinating with people who are doing the legwork in Mumbai and New Delhi.”
“I have experienced that the petitioners/applicants are approaching the government officials in the US to request their interview dates at the consulate,” Bhatia says. “This backlog issue is not only unfolding in New Delhi and Mumbai, but globally –at all US embassies.”
“I know we are still in the middle of a pandemic and monitoring is going to be stringent. Nonetheless, the embassies and consulates have been inordinately slow and this is causing a lot of stress to the businesses and individuals with approved visa petitions that cannot move forward without being stamped.”
Talking about the wait times, Bhatta says, “In the worst case scenarios, some people wait for more than 12-14 months to get their B1/B2 visa interviews and others do not even get an appointment.”
“The attorney on the records can communicate with the consulate requesting for an interview and/or visa on behalf of an applicant. We have been successful in obtaining interview dates faster for some of our clients/petitioners,” he says.
“Additionally, when applicants have access to the elected members of the government, I recommend them to seek their help to obtain interview dates for emergencies and important matters. The system has to be amended, streamlined and made more efficient and accessible to a lot of people,” Bhatta says. “Delays can ruin businesses, and the prospects of individuals on student visas, H-B1s, L and O visas.”