U.S. consular posts in India are currently experiencing extraordinary wait times for nonimmigrant visa (NIV) interview appointments as a result of increased demand. As of early June, the current wait times for all NIV categories other than B, F, and J are: Chennai, 75 days; Hyderabad, 93 days; Kolkata, 96 days; Mumbai, 88 days; and New Delhi, 100 days. Unfortunately, backlogs are likely to continue, if not worsen, during the busy summer months.
DOS reports that demand for visas to travel to the United States has increased by 80 percent in the past five years; more than one million visa applications were adjudicated during the last fiscal year alone. While additional consular positions are being requested to alleviate the increase in visa wait times, foreign nationals should consider deferring unnecessary travel to India until after the backlogs have subsided. When travel is essential, be prepared for lengthy delays in the scheduling of visa interviews.
Foreign nationals who must travel to obtain a visa now should be mindful that:
- The Indian visa appointment system provides a mechanism for requesting an expedited appointment. First priority goes to cases involving humanitarian issues (e.g., travel to receive an organ donation, to care for a seriously ill relative in the U.S., etc.). Business emergencies take second priority. In making a business-expedite request, it is important to articulate why the need to travel is urgent, why advance planning was not possible, and the impact if travel does not occur.
- India requires applicants for a petition-based visa to have already obtained USCIS approval of the underlying petition before requesting an interview, not just a petition number for a still-pending case.
- If an Indian national has reason to travel to another jurisdiction, applying outside of India as a Third Country National may be an option. Such applications are mostly likely to be successful in H-1B, L-1, and O petition-based cases.