Reduced wait times for U.S. travel visas

Reduced wait times for U.S. travel visas

In a recent report released by the U.S. Department of State (DOS), a significant reduction in wait times for travel visa interviews is promised. According to the report, it is expected that by 2024, wait times will be reduced to less than 90 days.

This news is very positive for those planning to process a visa for travel to the United States, as it represents a significant improvement over current wait times.

Accelerated visa processing recovery

Report highlights that visa processing capacity has recovered faster than anticipated. During FY2023, more nonimmigrant visas (NIVs) were issued worldwide than in any year since 2015. Included within the nonimmigrant category are B1 and B2 type visas, used for business or tourist travel, as well as international student visas.

State Department emphasizes that its visa services promote U.S. economic growth and maintain a regulated labor flow, while protecting national security. This accelerated recovery in visa processing is the result of several innovations and initiatives implemented during and after the COVID-19 pandemic.

Focus on Reducing Wait Times

During the pandemic, wait times for consular interviews and visa application processing were severely impacted due to the closure of embassies and consulates around the world. However, DOS has remained focused on reducing these wait times, especially in countries where demand remains at unprecedented levels.

The DOS is using new tools to introduce efficiencies into the visa application process and constantly considers ways in which technological improvements can streamline processing. The DOS’s goal is for more than 90% of its overseas posts to have interview wait times of less than 90 days by 2024.

Current wait times and query tool

Currently, wait times for an appointment at a U.S. consulate vary depending on the type of visa requested and the country in which the application is made. DOS provides an online tool called Global Visa Wait Times that shows updated wait times for different consulates.

Below are some examples of current wait times for a B1/B2 visa in different cities:

CityWait Time (days)
Calgary, Canada859
Mexico City, Mexico847
Guadalajara, Mexico825
Ciudad Juarez, Mexico825
Tegucigalpa, Honduras801
Tijuana, Mexico801
Merida, Mexico777
Monterrey, Mexico769
Nogales, Mexico752
Hermosillo, Mexico731
Bogota, Colombia706
Nuevo Laredo, Mexico672
Matamoros, Mexico664
Abuja, Nigeria649
Guatemala City, Guatemala496
Quito, Ecuador424
Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates414
Dubai380
Panama City, Panama350
Guayaquil, Ecuador316
Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic260
Lisbon, Portugal254
Asuncion, Paraguay248
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil145
Amsterdam, The Netherlands125
Madrid, Spain493

It is important to note that these waiting times may change on a weekly basis and are subject to the workload and staffing levels at each embassy or consulate.

In addition, it is important to note that these wait times apply specifically to B1/B2 visas and may vary for other types of visas, such as student or professional worker visas.

Reasons for wait times and in-person interview waivers

The DOS explains that estimated wait times to receive an interview appointment at a U.S. embassy or consulate may change due to current workload and staffing. It is important to note that the estimates provided by the DOS online tool are only estimates and do not guarantee the availability of an appointment.

In addition, DOS notes that some embassies and consulates have a separate process for visa cases where an in-person interview is not required. These cases typically have shorter wait times, although they are not reflected in the table provided above.

During the pandemic, DOS and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) agreed to waive in-person interviews for several key visa categories, including those for students and temporary workers who are integral to key U.S. industries and supply chains.

This has allowed for streamlining the visa renewal process for those renewing their nonimmigrant visa in the same classification within 48 months of the expiration of the previous visa.

Reasons for waiting and waivers for in-person interviews.

DOS explains that estimated wait times to receive an appointment for an interview at a U.S. embassy or consulate may change due to current workload and staffing. It is important to note that the estimates provided by the DOS online tool are only estimates and do not guarantee the availability of an appointment.

In addition, DOS notes that some embassies and consulates have a separate process for visa cases where an in-person interview is not required. These cases typically have shorter wait times, although they are not reflected in the table provided above.

During the pandemic, DOS and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) agreed to waive in-person interviews for several key visa categories, including those for students and temporary workers who are integral to key U.S. industries and supply chains.

This has allowed for streamlining the visa renewal process for those renewing their nonimmigrant visa in the same classification within 48 months of the expiration of the previous visa.

Record number of visas issued in 2023

State Department reports that during fiscal year 2023, record numbers of nonimmigrant visas were issued at all 230 embassies and consulates abroad. In total, more than 10.4 million nonimmigrant visas were issued. Importantly, approximately 40% of these travelers did not require an in-person interview, freeing up interview slots for first-time applicants and others in need.

Conclusions and expectations for the future

The State Department’s promise to reduce wait times for visitor visa interviews to less than 90 days by 2024 is excellent news for those planning to travel to the United States. While some experts caution caution and suggest waiting to see if this promise is fulfilled, the accelerated recovery in visa processing and the technological improvements implemented so far are reasons to be optimistic.

If you are planning to apply for a travel visa to the United States, it is important to consult the Global Visa Wait Times tool provided by the Department of State for up-to-date information on wait times in your home country and city.

In addition, it is critical to be aware of the specific requirements and procedures for each type of visa before beginning the application process.

This reduction in wait times for U.S. travel visas is encouraging news for applicants. The accelerated recovery in visa processing and the technological improvements implemented by the Department of State are positive signs of a more efficient and streamlined future in the visa application process.