The U.S. Department of State continues to work actively to improve the application situation at consular posts worldwide by increasing staffing levels. There are still sometimes very long wait times for interview appointments or processing times in the U.S. visa application process.
Some countries are already benefiting from new hires at U.S. consulates worldwide. We give you an overview of how the situation in the U.S. representations is shaping up.
Since the end of the Travel Ban at the end of 2021, U.S. consulates have barely kept up with processing the backlogged and new applications for U.S. visas.
Since the end of the Travel Ban in 2021 and the resumption of regular processing of U.S. visa applications, U.S. consulates around the world have been struggling not only to cope with the ongoing flood of applications, but also to catch up with the cases that went unprocessed during that time. The U.S. Department of State now released the latest numbers from U.S. agencies to provide insight into the current situation.
So far in 2022, U.S. consular posts worldwide have processed about 70 percent more nonimmigrant visas than the previous year. This equates to about 800,000 nonimmigrant visa applications at the missions abroad. Even though this is only about 80% of the pre-pandemic level, the mass of new applications coming in is difficult for the U.S. consulates, which continue to be understaffed, to handle.
At least, as of today, about 95% of the pandemic's pending immigrant visa applications have been completed.
The U.S. Department of State also said it continues to actively work to gradually increase the number of consular officers* worldwide by the end of 2022. For example, there have already been 50% more new hires in overseas U.S. consulates this year compared to last year.
The goal remains to bring visa processing levels in line with pre-pandemic levels: Reduce wait times for visa interview appointments or expeditious processing times for visa application processes. This effort is not entirely altruistic, especially with regard to the rapid issuance of work visas for skilled workers, who are also desperately needed in the United States. Of course, it is also important to ensure that students can start their studies on time and that families are not subjected to unnecessarily long separation periods.
The appointment situation in the German U.S. consulates continues to change almost daily, depending on location and visa category. In particular, interview appointments for visitor visas (B-1/B-2) for tourists or business travelers repeatedly involve long wait times. As recently as June 2022, the next appointments for a B interview at one of the 3 U.S. consulates in Germany were not available until spring 2023.
Since a few days, the scheduling situation in Berlin, Frankfurt and Munich has eased somewhat: Currently, applicants for visitor visas have a chance to get an interview appointment within about 4-8 weeks. However, it is always worthwhile to take a look at the calendar of the consular online profile in case the consulates release earlier appointments or other persons cancel appointments.
Travelers who are planning a stay in the USA in the near future and need a B visa should therefore make sure to make an appointment early, as the appointment situation can change again at short notice.
Other visa types, such as E or L-Blanket visas should expect an average waiting time of 4-6 weeks to receive an appointment.
At the moment, all persons who can travel to the USA visa-free with an ESTA approval can consider themselves lucky.
In total, the US only allows citizens of about 40 countries worldwide to travel to the US visa-free for business or tourism purposes, all others have to apply for one of the many visas.
The application process basically starts with an online application of the DS-160 form, a visa fee and finding an interview appointment at the nearest US consulate.
Even though the waiting times for processing visa applications have improved slightly in some countries, there are still countries such as India, Colombia, Chile, Brazil and Canada where applicants have to wait more than 24 months to get an appointment for a visitor visa.
In addition to the aforementioned visitor visas, applicants for F-1 student visas and persons who urgently need work visas are particularly affected at the consular missions of these countries.
Especially for young people who have received scholarships to study in the U.S. or want to extend their visas to finish their studies, they are under massive pressure and fear for the future because the wait times for an appointment at the U.S. consulate are so long. Work visa applicants or their companies also face extensive delays due to the poor appointment situation.
To be sure, numerous U.S. consulates now offer simplified application procedures, such as the postal submission option for applicants. However, even these measures have not yet led to any significant improvement in the application situation at some consular posts.
The current situation in many U.S. consulates is worse than it was at the time of 9/11, when the entire consular system more or less ground to a halt for some time after the attacks of September 11, 2001. Even during that critical period, U.S. authorities were able to catch up on processing backlogs after a very short period of time, but not after 2 years of pandemic.
Many smaller U.S. country offices had only emergency appointments to offer within the last 2 years and can now only slowly return to an old rhythm. The administrative restrictions within the last months were too big.
Meanwhile, almost all U.S. consulates and embassies have resumed regular services. Just this month, the U.S. Embassy in India resumed routinely offering in-person appointments for B-1 and B-2 business and tourist visas.
Hopefully, the gradual increase in staffing will soon be felt in countries still struggling with long wait times for appointments.
Updated on 14.9.2022