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Delay in getting dates from US Embassy hits travel plans of H-1B visa holders

3 min read
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H-1B visa holders: A large number of Indians in the US who are on H-1B visas are facing challenges in planning international travel, including visiting family in India because they need a valid visa stamp on their passports before they travel back to the US.

There are long delays in getting dates at the US embassy and consulates, even if many of them are eligible for interview waivers.

Other than the issue of unavailability of dates for visa interviews or even for submitting documents. In cases where interviews are being waived off, there is a risk of administrative delays or security checks that could delay the processing time of H-1-B visas further.

Shalini Kumar (name changed) is a model. She works in an IT firm in Texas and has been on an H-1B visa for eight years. Kumar hasn’t visited her parents in Bengaluru since the pandemic and is currently trying hard. To get a drop box appointment since she needs to get a visa stamp before she goes back to the US after her visit.

H-1B visa holders

There are no dates available for the following couple of months thus she can’t plan the trip. Her situation is further complicated because of her child, who is on H4 dependent visa. Is now above 14 years of age and isn’t eligible for a visa interview waiver. Getting an interview date for him is proving even harder and there are no dates available yet on the online booking system. Kumar doesn’t know when she will finally be able to meet her parents again.

“Even, for drop-box applications, in case of visa interview waivers, H-1B visa holders who travel to India. Need appointments to drop off the paperwork. Appointments are not readily available. Before traveling to India, they should check for appointments frequently. So that they can book one when dates do become available. More appointments are probably going to open up in the following weeks and particularly in August-September 2022 and onwards”. Explains immigration lawyer Poorvi Chothani.

Right now, a few non-immigration visa candidates applying for US visas might be eligible for interview waivers if they meet certain criteria.

These waivers apply to temporary workers who need H-1, H-3, H-4, L, O, P, or Q visas subject to specific conditions. Also, given they are applying for a visa in their nation of nationality or residence.

US Embassy hits travel plans for H1B visas

These waivers also apply to qualifying students, professors, research scholars, short-term scholars, or specialists (F, M, and academic J visa candidates). However, even those candidates who qualify for interview waivers require drop box appointments and before getting these appointments they can’t travel to India.

“The ongoing visa interview waivers will be available through the end of 2022 and are expected to reduce visa wait times altogether. Candidates who need to renew a visa in the same category as a visa that expired within 12 months before. The new visa application date has been eligible for interview waivers(subject to certain conditions) even in the past. The big difference now is that the candidate can apply for another visa category. And must have held any valid non-immigrant visa within the past 48 months,” Chothani said.

[Additional H2B Cap Reached for Second Half of FY2022]

However, since drop-box appointments are not readily available at the diplomatic posts in India. A candidate would need to repeatedly check for the appointments, and this could overcome ‘reducing visa wait times. Which was the target for this new waiver criteria, adds Chothani. However, the good news is that things are improving. Consular officers in India have promised incremental appointments in the forthcoming weeks but more so from July 2022 onwards.

“My advice to H-1B visa holders who are planning to travel to India, and need a visa stamp. It isn’t to travel unless they have a firm appointment shortly. Because appointments that are given for a date several weeks away are probably going to be canceled,” Chothani said.

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