On October 25, 2021, the U.S. President Joe Biden released the much-anticipated proclamation titled “A Proclamation on Advancing the Safe Resumption of Global Travel During the COVID-19 Pandemic”, which came into effect on November 8, 2021, and ended the travel restrictions imposed under P.P. 9984, 9992, 10143, and 10199, suspending entry into the United States of certain non-immigrants physical present in Brazil, China, India, Iran, Ireland, the Schengen Area, South Africa, and the United Kingdom in the last 14 days. This update can be found here.
On November 10, 2021, the Minister Counselor for Consular Affairs, Mr. Don Heflin hosted a FaceBook Live session to share important updates on vaccination requirements and to provide insight into how consular posts across India will prioritize interview appointments in the coming weeks.
With respect to Non-Immigrant Visas, priority will be given to students applying for F, M and certain J visas from now until early Jan 2022. Following this, the consular posts will focus on work visas (H, L and O). Dropbox eligible B1/B2 appointments will also be accommodated. Given the limited ability to accommodate in-person interviews, priority will be given to only drop box eligible applicants. It may be recalled that until December 31, 2021, the drop box eligibility has been relaxed and now applicants whose visa expired within the last 48 months can avail this facility. We expect this relaxation to be extended through 2022. Interview slots will generally be made available around 3 weeks in advance. Drop box eligible applicants need to schedule an appointment with a Visa Application Center (VAC) to drop off the application.
Unfortunately, for the foreseeable future, in-person visa interview appointments will be limited in number as compared to drop box appointments and long wait times are expected for all visa interview appointments.
First time B1/B2 applicants and applicants requiring a personal interview may have to wait until the later part of 2022 for an appointment.
Applications Denied Due to Presidential Proclamation
While P.P. 10199 was in effect, visas were approved only for those applicants who qualified under the national interest exception (NIE). If the applicant was not eligible for an NIE and the application was kept pending, the consular post will reach out to the applicant by email in order to schedule the INA 221(g) follow up interview.
The procedure to request an emergency appointment (EA) remains unchanged. Applicants need to schedule any first available appointment and then raise a request for an emergency appointment. Only one request for EA can be made against each payment of visa fee. If this is approved, the applicant will be notified, and an additional calendar date will be made available to the applicant. To facilitate this, the consulate has opened some interview slots for October 2022. It is important to note that such slots made available to facilitate EA are referred to as “place holder appointments” and one should expect this to be automatically cancelled by the consulate if the request for an EA is denied. If the EA is denied, the applicant may pay the visa application fee again and raise another request for an EA, however, if the consulate has denied the request once, it is highly unlikely that the same may be approved the second time unless there is a change in circumstances or additional information with respect to the urgency of travel is available.
Mr. Don Heflin mentioned that starting December 1, 2021, the consular post in Mumbai will start processing all categories of immigrant visas. Most of the immigrant visas with a few exceptions (like SB-1 returning resident status) will be processed at the U.S. Consulate in Mumbai. However, immigrant visa applicants should expect long interview wait times.
A recoding of this session can be found here.
We will continue to monitor this important subject and keep applicants updated on any new developments.