Headline, Immigration

US opens 100,000 work visa appointment slots for Indians

Wait time for both interview waiver and first-time appointments cut in half in India

Frustrated Indians waiting endlessly for the elusive US work visa appointments have a reason to smile. US Mission to India has released over 100,000 appointments for H&L workers and their families.

“In response to high demand for employment-based visas, the US Mission to India recently released over 100,000 appointments for H&L workers and their families,” the US Embassy in India tweeted Friday.

“Thousands of applicants have already booked their appointments and the wait time for both interview waiver and first-time appointments has been cut in half throughout Mission India,” it said in an update. “This bulk appointment opening reflects our ongoing commitment to H&L workers.”

Read: Work visa holders question new USCIS mission statement (February 10, 2022)

“In fact, in the first nine months of 2022, the US Mission to India had already processed over 160,000 H&L visas and we will continue to prioritize H&L workers for visa appointments as resources allow,” the embassy said in another tweet.

H visas like the highly coveted H-1 B visas are for high skilled foreign workers seeking employment with US companies while L visas allow foreign companies to transfer a manager, executive, or person with specialized knowledge to the US.

This was one of the key assurances given by the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken after Indian External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar brought up the issue of visa delays with him last month.

US Embassy Counselor Don Heflin had acknowledged on Sep 30 that there are people in the US on H and L visas who haven’t been able to come home and see their family since the pandemic started.

“We sympathize with them a lot,” he said holding out an assurance that “We are going to, sometime in the next few weeks, open 100,000 appointments in the year 2023 for this category of visas.”

Read: USCIS opens H-1B registration for FY 2023 on March 1 (January 29, 2022)

Routine B1/B2 appointments

The US Embassy in New Delhi and the consulates in Chennai, Hyderabad, Kolkata, and Mumbai resumed processing of routine in-person B1/B2 visas appointments starting in September.

However appointments for 2022 and 2023 filled quickly but the mission continues to open appointments as capacity allows, the embassy said.

The Department of State has also authorized consular officers to waive the in-person interview requirement for certain categories of visa applicants through Dec 31, 2022.

This new authorization applies to travelers 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.

However, this authorization does not apply to applicants who have a previous refusal that was not subsequently waived or overcome. Adjudicating consular officers may request an in-person interview if additional information is required from applicants.

Applicants renewing any visa within 48 months of expiration also continue to be eligible for interview waiver, the embassy said.

Read: B1/B2 visa appointments can take up to 14 months (June 18, 2022)

Visa fee validity

All nonimmigrant visa application fee (also known as the MRV fee) payments made on or after Oct 1, 2022, are valid for 365 days from the date a receipt is issued for payment of the MRV fee.

Read: US Embassy releases 100,000 slots for H&L work visas (October 15, 2022)

Applicants must schedule an in-person or interview waiver appointment during this 365-day period.  But there is no requirement the interview or VAC appointment must occur during the 365-day period.  All receipts for payment of MRV fees issued before Oct 1, 2022, were extended until Sep 30, 2023, and remain valid until this date.

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