Here is some bad news for those who want to visit the US on a non-immigrant visa. In India, the waiting time for an appointment for a visitor visa is a minimum of 582 days at Hyderabad to 848 days at the US consulate in Mumbai. In comparison, the waiting period for US visitor visas in Beijing and Shanghai is just two days and 21 days, respectively.
Data from the bureau of consular affairs, under the US department of state, shows that there is less waiting period for a visitor visa in Islamabad, Dhaka, Kathmandu and even Colombo. The Sri Lankan capital has the lowest waiting period of 100 days, among these cities.
In India, the waiting period for an appointment for a US visitor visa is 830 days in New Delhi, 780 days in Chennai and 767 days in Kolkata.
The waiting period in India for an appointment for a student or exchange visitor visa and other non-immigrant visas remains high. Kolkata requires 444 days, the highest, for an appointment for a student or exchange visitor visa, while for other non-immigrant visas, the highest number of days at 415 are needed in Chennai.
Surprisingly, for both the above categories, the waiting period for an appointment in the US embassy in Pakistan is just one day. On the other hand, China requires two to four days for the appointment.
However, obtaining an appointment for a visa does not mean that you would receive it then and there. "These estimates do not include the time required for administrative processing, which may affect some applications. When administrative processing is required, the timing will vary based on individual circumstances of each case," the US bureau of consular affairs says.
According to the US Embassy in India, "Visa appointments are now open for all categories! But because of high demand, wait times remain significant."
In a chat, Don Heflin, US minister counselor for consular affairs, clarified that due to the high volume of visa requests, they could not immediately accommodate all travellers. "Due to reduced staffing and numerous pandemic-related disruptions to operations since March 2020, appointment demand for visas is high across all categories and wait times may be longer for most routine non-immigrant visa appointments at the embassy in New Delhi and the consulates in Chennai, Hyderabad, Kolkata, and Mumbai."
However, he says, the department is going to increase staffing to pre-COVID level very soon, and visa applicants would benefit from it.
Responding to a question, Mr Heflin says, "We will open more slots for appointments weekly. We are opening more slots in the next few weeks, so keep checking out the website twice a day!"
When asked if one can go and book an appointment in another country for the US visa, the minister counsellor, advised that first-timers (those applying for a US visa for the first time) should not go to any other country to book an appointment. "However, if you have had a US visa earlier, then you can book an appointment from another country, where the waiting time is less. But make sure you get that country's visa first," he says.
For students, Mr Helfin says, the next slot (for visa appointments) will open by the end of November to December.
According to the US bureau of consular affairs, embassies and consulates may have a separate process for visa cases where the in-person interview requirement is waived. "In general, wait times for those cases are shorter, but they are not reflected in the table below. One needs to check the individual embassy or consulate website to determine if your case is eligible for a waiver of the in-person interview."
Coming back to the visas approved by the US for Indians, during July 2022, its Mumbai office issued 18,628 visas. The maximum number of US visas at 9,587 were issued under the F1 category. In contrast, just one visa was issued under the B2 category, shows the monthly statistics for nonimmigrant visa issuance published by the bureau of consular affairs.