Wait time for US student visa appointments in Hyderabad is now almost a year

Wait time for US student visa appointments in Hyderabad is now almost a year

Student visas have joined the list of visas facing long wait times as the United States struggles to cope with the massive surge in demand with limited resources.

Along with tourist and business visas, student visas (F visas) are also beginning to face backlogs. The wait time at the Hyderabad consulate hitting 325 calendar days, according to the US Department of State website.

Students planning to apply for visas through other consulates will not have to wait as long. New Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai have wait times of 104 days, while Kolkata has a 98-day wait.

The United States is making every effort to reduce the waiting time for visa interview appointment in India as soon as possible, a State Department spokesperson said last week.

“Visa processing is recovering faster than projected and over the coming year, we expect to reach pre-pandemic processing levels,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price told reporters at his daily news conference.

Responding to a question, Price said he certainly understands the frustrations of those having long wait times. “I can tell you that it is a priority of the Secretary and of the Department to do everything we can to reduce that backlog and ultimately to reduce the wait times. We are committed to safeguarding national security while facilitating legitimate travel to nonimmigrant travellers,” he said.

“And we know that timely visa processing is essential to the US economy and to the administration’s goal of family reunification. We’ve made great strides in recovering from pandemic-related closures and staffing challenges, but we’re still working to respond to the significant demand for visa services,” he added.

The US issued more student visas in fiscal year 2022 than in any year since 2016, he said, adding that its embassy and consulates in India in particular broke their all-time record for the number of student visas issued in a single fiscal year.

“We issued nearly 1,25,000 student visas. We recognize that some applicants may still face extended visa wait times, and we’re making every effort to further reduce visa interview appointment wait times as quickly as possible in India and around the world, including for first time tourist visa applicants,” Price said.

For first-time applicants of the US’ business (B-1) and tourist (B-2) visas, the wait goes up to almost three years in Mumbai.

According to the US State Department, the current waiting period for B1/B2 applicants requiring an interview stands at 999 days in Mumbai; 494 days in Hyderabad; 786 days in Delhi; 800 in Chennai and 440 in Kolkata.

To address the growing backlog, the US has made more applicants eligible for interview waiver, sending drop box cases abroad for adjudication and getting temporary staffers.

While students have been getting top priority in admission season, next on the list is expediting drop box cases for skilled workers, repeat B1/B2 visa seekers (whose visas expired within four years of application that now makes them eligible for interview waiver) and crew. It could possibly be several months before the interview wait time for B1/B2 starts dropping.

The United States expects the processing times to rebound faster than projected and expects it to reach pre-pandemic levels in Fiscal Year 2023.