U.S. consular posts in India started accepting applications for F1 students visas, as soon as they resumed limited operations during the COVID-19 pandemic. The consular website continues to indicate that they are focussing their resources on student visa applications.
Though the consular website clearly indicates that students with (i) a valid I-20 and start date of less than 60 days and (ii) with no prior visa refusals in the most recent 6 months are eligible for an emergency appointment, in reality, most requests for F1 emergency appointments are denied. We have seen that request for emergency appointments are approved only when the start date is less than 3 weeks from the date of the visa appointment.
It is important to note that only one request for emergency appointment can be made per fee payment. Since most requests in spite of meeting the above criteria are being turned down, one is left with no choice but to continuously monitor the website for an early appointment. Once logged in, applicants are able to see a warning that s/he has been checking too frequently. However, in many instances, it locks the applicant out at the time of login itself for 72 hours without any prior warning. This is unfortunate as it makes the application process even more stressful for those wishing to study in the U.S.
We hope that U.S. consular posts will take cognizance of the difficulties faced by F1 students whose families invest their lifetime savings to send their children to the U.S. It is eminently reasonable to provide a more convenient platform for students to apply and obtain their F1 visas. We will continue to monitor and update our readers on any changes / improvements made.