Sunday, March 3, 2024

US State Dep’t announces efforts to reduce wait times for visitor visas

The U.S. State Department has reduced wait times for visitor visas, officials announced during a press briefing Thursday.

The agency doubled the number of U.S. Foreign Service personnel to meet the backlog of visa applications and conduct in-person interviews. 

“We’ve seen a tremendous drop in wait times today. We have a median global wait time of seven weeks for visitor visa interviews and only seven days for students and temporary workers. That’s down significantly from just a few months ago,” said Julie Stufft, an official from the State Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs. 

The press release also notes that the State Department is waiving in-person interviews where possible, processing more visas with smaller staffs, processing visas remotely and providing greater transparency in the visa application process. 

US Consulate appointment screenshot
The Mexico City consulate’s wait time for student visa interviews is better than the current global average, but other types still take weeks to years to schedule, as this screenshot taken Friday afternoon shows. travel.state.gov

The processing of visa requests faced extensive delays during the COVID-19 pandemic due to health restrictions preventing in-person interviews. 

While the U.S. government states that the median global wait time for a tourist visa is seven weeks, and that it expects to return to pre-pandemic processing numbers in 2023, wait times for a U.S. visa vary significantly throughout the world, with several countries still facing delays.

As recently as last month, the wait to schedule an interview at a U.S. consulate in Mexico reached up to 746 days, depending on the city in which it was scheduled. The wait time for an appointment in Mexico City was 647 days. 

According to the U.S. Travel Association, visa processing delays were on track to cause the loss of 6.6 million international travelers, amounting to an economic cost of $11.6 billion by 2023. 

Mexico is among the three largest U.S. tourist markets in the world. 

With reports from La Jornada, El Heraldo, and VOA News

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