Indian tourists claim they are suffering significant difficulties, including lost business possibilities, due to the over 16-month waiting period for US tourist visa appointments, which won’t begin until 2024. Across all five US consulates in India, the wait period for a tourist visa has surpassed 500 days. This is a result of a backlog of visa requests that were postponed during the pandemic. Only in September 2022 will the US Embassy start to accept fresh applications for tourist visas. ‘National interest’ and repeat travel would be prioritised, a US embassy official told ThePrint in an email.
After a near total suspension and resource freeze during the Covid-19 outbreak, visa processing is now resuming. For both immigrants and non-immigrants, the US Department of State is devoted to facilitating legal travel to the country. Donald L. Heflin, Minister Counselor for Consular Affairs at the US Embassy, predicted that 8 lakh visas will likely be awarded during the course of the following 12 months in April.
‘Worse than Schengen visa delays’
In April-June this year, Indians had faced long waits for availing Schengen visas to travel to Europe. According to IATO president Mehra, the situation is now more acute. The US embassy stopped processing regular B1/B2 tourist visas during the second wave of the pandemic. As for student visas, the wait time for appointments has crossed 400 days unless applying from Mumbai. Indian students applying for spring or summer courses in 2023 are facing a wait-and-watch approach due to visa issues. While the fall semester starts in September and ends in December, the spring semester is held in the January-May period.
Lost business opportunities
Consultant Manoj Mathew had a 10-year B1/B2 tourist visa that expired in 2018. The 44-year-old has travelled to the US six times, but has been unable to get a visa appointment for a short-term business trip. ‘Consultants like me are losing out on business opportunities and incurring losses in non-refundable visa fees,’ he said.
There are worries that travellers could have to pay expensive plane costs if their visas arrive too close to the time of their intended departure. applicants like Vishal Mutreja, a 43-year-old IT specialist working out of Mumbai who is unable to go to the US right away due to a medical issue He filed for a 15-day tourist visa, but his efforts to get it expedited were in vain.