Even though the US Travel Ban was lifted this week, the US Consulates in India have not resumed regular operations yet. Back in June 2021, there was a live online session with head of US consulates that gave insights on US Visa appointments situation. Similar to that, there was a Facebook Live event today with Minister Counselor for Consular Affairs, Don Heflin. He gave more details on what to expect in terms of US visa appointments in India in the upcoming months. We have divided into sections for easy understanding.
General Dropbox, In-Person Interviews, Wait Times, Slots
- US Consulates in India will process primarily US Visa renewals using dropbox due to staffing situation with COVID and social distancing.
- The in-person appointments will be available, but in limited numbers. The main reason is social distancing and the way the consulates are built in the past are not suitable for handling large number of people, so most of the appointments would be dropbox.
- The US Dropbox Eligibility changed to 48 months until expiry is valid till Dec 31st, 2021. Though they did not explicitly say, based on the message, the 48 months until expiry rule will be extended beyond December 31st, 2021. We need to wait for official update on US consulate website.
- Expect very long wait times as only 25% of India population is vaccinated and this will limit the ability to open up consulates like before.
- US Consulates will open around 50% of slots in November and December 2021 for next year and they will add more slots closer to the date depending on the demand.
- US Consulates will cancel any appointments that are issued in later part of next year like Oct 2022. All of these are placeholder slots given for Booking Emergency Appointment Slot in India. They will honor appointments that are booked recently for Jan 2022 or so.
- You should only use Emergency Appointment booking for medical reasons and real emergencies. Having wedding or visiting friends & family is not considered emergency.
- Agents Fraud for Booking Slots : They did acknowledge the issue with agents trying to book slots. They have few checks in place and have contracts reviewing the issue. They say that there are enough slots open, so should be fine. You can report fraud agents to them using email MumbaiF@state.gov
- You cannot convert a In-person appointment to Dropbox appointment or vice-versa. If you have any of these, just stick to them, do not try to change them.
- You may check US Visa Appointments in India News updates page for timeline of updates, to know weekly changes from past until now.
F1 Visa Appointments, Returning F1 OPT
- US Consulates in India will focus most of the November and December 2021 processing visa appointments for Student Visa holders (F1, J1) planning to go to US for Spring 2021.
- If you are a student in US on OPT and planning to come to India for visa renewal, you can get it renewed using dropbox, if eligible. But, be aware there is no guarantee for slots, be prepared ahead of time and book appointment before you travel. Consulates suggest to avoid travel, if you can as slots are limited.
- You need to meet the vaccination requirements as listed by the CDC. If you have only one dose you cannot travel to US. Going to school in January is not considered as emergency to get exception from CDC for travel to US.
- If you already had F1 Visa stamping done and have valid F1 visa, but got a new I20 and SEVIS Number, then you can travel to US with the valid visa and new SEVIS and I-20. You will need to explain it to the CBP officer at US Port of Entry during the Port of Entry Process to enter US. It is not required to get a new Visa.
H1B, L1, H4, L2 Visa Appointments Situation in India
- US Consulates will process H1B, H4, L1 and L2 visa appointments as next priority after F1 students appointments during November and December 2021.
- More H & L Visa Appointments ( H1B, H4, L1, L2) will be opening starting from January 2022 until May 2022. The maximum slots will be given for Dropbox appointments and fewer in-person appointment slots.
- H & L Visa appointments will be a priority for consulates during January to May 2022 and they will process more appointments.
- You cannot travel to US with expired H1B visa with only I-797 approval notice that is valid. You need a valid H1B visa to travel to US. You can apply for H1B Dropbox stamping to get visa to travel to US.
B1/B2 Visitor Visa Appointments – New, Renewals
- B1/B2 Visitor Visa Appointments will be opening starting from January 2022 until May 2022. Most of these appointments will be primarily Dropbox appointments for renewals of B1/B2.
- There will not be any appointments open for B1/B2 during Nov or Dec 2021
- US consulates do not plan to give fresh or new B1/B2 appointments for visitors, including parents, during this period.
- The B1/B2 Visa appointment slots for January to May 2022 will be open around late November 2021 and in early December 2021. Keep an eye on the appointment. They will not give specific dates and times on when they will open these slots.
Travel to US, Vaccination Certification, NIE
- You can take any WHO approved or FDA approved vaccines for travel to US.
- COVAXIN and Covishied, that are widely administered in India are accepted.
- You need to be fully vaccinated as per CDC to travel to US. Very limited exceptions.
- Check List of Vaccines for US travel, Fully Vaccinated Status meaning
- If you need exception from vaccination to travel to US, you need to email consulate on your situation after getting US visa and they will contact CDC to get you the exception. These are very rare to get and very limited. So, getting vaccination is the best thing, if you can.
- You do NOT need National Interest Exception(NIE) to travel to US. If you have NIE approved, it means nothing now. You need to be vaccinated to travel to the US.
- There is no quarantine requirement, if you have vaccination after you enter US.
- The children COVID testing requirements to enter US are same as the adult they are accompanying. Meaning, if the adult gets a test within 72 hours, the child also can get within 72 hours. But, if the child is traveling standalone, they need to get it in 24 hours as per standard CDC guidance for unvaccinated individuals.
- Indian vaccination certificates are valid. They need the date of birth for validation. So, you need to have all the date of birth related proof like Aadhar Card, passport that ties back your name to date of birth.
221(g) Cases Stuck, issued during Travel Ban
- If you have received 221(g) for Administrative Processing due to the Travel ban, your cases will be processed by consulates very soon. Consulates will contact you regarding your case in the upcoming weeks.
- If you do not hear from them, you can reach out to the consulates that gave you the same. Check US Embassy website for more updates on the same.
- You do not have to pay MRV or Visa fee for processing of 221g cases. Also, there may not be a need to fill the DS-160 for again. But, this will be confirmed by consulate based on your case. So, wait for consulate guidance on the same.
- If you are new, read what is 221g administrative processing
Green Card holders Stuck in India, US Citizen Kid
- If you are a green card holder stuck in India for over a year, you need to apply for SB-1 Visa, if your re-entry permit is not valid.
- You can email the consulate at their firstname.lastname@example.org , if you need more info on this.
- US Citizen Child : If you have younger US Citizen child, you may qualify for emergency appointment based on their health situation or school situation in US. You can raise Emergency appointment with relevant details and they may consider under family ties.
Immigrant Visas, C1D, Other Misc Topics Addressed
- There is a huge backlog of Immigrant visas and the consulates are trying to process as many as they can. But, just need a lot of catch up to do. So, wait for the consulate or contact them.
- Mumbai consulate if fully focused on the immigrant visa, they are trying to process more.
- Afghan SIV – You can apply for your SIV case in New Delhi Consulate. If you are already in India. But if not, do not try to come without proper paperwork. Contact Embassy for more info.
- You cannot get US Visa stamping in the US, you need to go to other country or your home country to get Visa. You can go for other countries for stamping, if you can get slots.
- Mumbai is processing CR1 visa slots and they will open for more categories. Just that there is a lot of wait time.
- They will process all C1D Cases stuck in 221g as well as time permits. Just lot of catch up to do.
- O Visa appointments may be opened. The problem is they cannot open for some visa types as there is a system issue. If you are O visa, you can email consulate and ask for Emergency appointment to get stamping done.
- They do not plan to open new consulates in India. They are planning for a big Consulate building in Hyderabad in 2022.
- They cannot add more people to tackle the demand of visa appointments. Just have to live with what they have now.
What do you think of the update by US Embassy ? Share your thoughts in comments below.
You can watch the official recording at below video