09 Nov 2022 Update On Embassy Interviews And Backlogs
On October 21, 2022, the Department of State (DOS) provided an update on worldwide visa operations, stating that embassies around the world are “recovering faster than expected from the COVID-19 pandemic.” This update provides encouraging information for people who are eligible for visas and are told that they are “documentarily complete,” but have been waiting for their immigrant visa interviews.
According to DOS, they have successfully lowered visa interview wait times worldwide, doubled the hiring of U.S. foreign service personnel, and “are recovering faster than projected, and this year we will reach pre-pandemic processing levels.”
HOW WE GOT HERE: DOS explained that there were two main reasons why the backlog for interviews happened because of the COVID-19 pandemic. First, there were restrictions on travel to the U.S. and local restrictions on public places, affecting social distancing in consular waiting rooms, all of which limited embassies’ ability to see and interview visa applicants. Second, there was a drop in revenue because of a drop in receipt of visa application fees. In other words, embassies were generating operating income from visa application fees. When people stopped applying for visas, that source of revenue dried up. As a result, more than 300 consular officer positions could not be filled, as there was no revenue for additional hiring.
WHERE WE ARE NOW: DOS reports that since COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted, 96% of the embassies and consulates are open and interviewing visa applicants. For non-immigrant visa applicants, embassies are operating at 94% of pre-pandemic monthly averages. For immigrant visa applicants, embassies are operating at 130%, which means they are now processing more immigrant visa applicants than before the pandemic. Through September 30, 2022, embassies have processed over 8 million non-immigrant visas worldwide, and DOS is “well on the way to meeting and exceeding pre-pandemic visa processing capacity.”
As of October 2022, the consular sections worldwide have reduced the overall immigrant visa interview scheduling backlog by at least 25% (or approximately 135,000 applicants) from its peak in July 2021.
DOS acknowledges that it is well aware that many visa applicants still face lengthy wait times at some embassies and consulates. However, this update is very encouraging because DOS is reducing the tremendous backlog caused by the pandemic and, hopefully, will be able to clear that backlog and be able to interview deserving visa applicants in a timely fashion.
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