Last year in November 2021, there was a Facebook Live Q &A session on US Visa Appointments situation in India organized by US Embassy. In that session, Minister Counselor for Consular Affairs for India, Mr. Don Heflin took the time to answer questions about US Visa appointments, the overall Consulates operations situation in India.
On April 18th, 2022, US Consulate in Chennai hosted a similar Facebook Live Q & A session with him. In this article, we have summarized the key points and guidance for various visa types appointments and how it would work in India for the same going forward this year.
Overall US Visa Appointments, General Operations of US Consulates
Below are some of the updates regarding the overall situation at the US Consulates and Embassy in India and updates that apply to all kinds of visa types
- Mr. Don Heflin said that this year marks the 75th anniversary of diplomatic ties between India and USA for US Visa issuances, since India’s Independence and it is a great partnership.
- US Consulates & Embassy plan to operate at about 2/3rds of their capacity for 2022. The goal is to issue about 800,000 visas in the next 12 months.
- Plan to have full operational capacity by mid-2023
- Understand demand – Appointments up to 1.5 years from today :
- He said that currently they are not aware of the actual backlog as they don’t know the exact demand with the current setup of the appointments booking.
- To know the exact demand and backlog, they plan to open up US Visa appointments well into the future like 1.5 years (one and half years) from today. That will help consulates assess the demand and plan accordingly.
- Unlike now, these slots opened far in to the future like 1.5 years from today will not be placeholder appointments and applicants can use those appointments that are even after 1.5 years
- COVID related Issues : Consulates were not able to open fully as normal during COVID due to typical issues like staffing issues, budget, hiring people, etc. They had to prioritize visa types due to the limited capacity.
- Why getting blocked of 72 hours: It is the refreshing thing that is blocking in. System thinks as bot. The slots will be open slowly now and then, not going to be big bang like last year
- Can someone pay more to get an US visa appointment ? US Consulates does not have such option and will not have it in future as we do not believe in such thing. They look at the purpose and give slots, but not for more money. They have turned down slots for many important connected people as well.
- Cancelling June Appointments ? If any of your US Visa appointment was booked recently in last couple of months for June 2022, then it is not a placeholder. If you booked before than 2 to 3 months, then it was a placeholder appointment and may get cancelled.
- About 8 to 9 days ago US Consulates quietly opened many visa slots all around the country.
For current updates on US Visa Stamping and US Consulates Situation in India, you should check: US Visa Stamping India – Consulates Latest Updates Timeline
Dropbox Appointments (Interview Waiver) Updates
- Dropbox appointments are mandatory, there are no plans for US consulates to go back to walk-in for dropbox like in previous years. For more, read US Visa Appointments mandatory for Dropbox – FAQs
- Dropbox slots are maxed out( completely booked ) for Summer and at the moment there are no plans to increase the capacity for summer. If you are H / L visas, you are out of luck. They will open slots later in September 2022. Also, may open some slots now and then as capacity permits.
- For Dropbox appointments, you can choose the VAC center that you prefer, no need to travel to the exact one. You can drop off documents anywhere. Read Dropbox Stamping India – Can Drop off documents at any location for more.
- They re-iterated the general Dropbox option that extended the interview waiver option for anyone with visa expired 48 months ago and how they would be eligible for dropbox. You can read below
Updates on F1 Visa Appointments in India
- As per Mr. Don Heflin, last year 62,000 F1 Visas were issued in India. This year, the plan is to interview more F1 students and issue more F1 visas.
- Unlike last year, US Consulates cannot wait till mid-June to open up F1 slots for Fall 2022 applicants. They will open slots around mid-May and start interviewing applicants for Fall 2022 starting from June 1st, 2022.
- F1 Students Visa Interview Booking Policy Change :
- US Consulates are making a policy change for F1 appointments allocation to have this year’s student visa season look like last year.
- Last year, US Consulates opened slots around June 14th, 2021 and all slots were taken out. So, many F1 student applicants did not get a chance to do a second interview chance( if rejected). These students with a slot gave their best shot in the one slot they got and many got visas on their first attempt.
- The policy change for 2022 would be to block out(prevent) F1 student applicants, who were rejected in the first interview, to apply for second, third, or further attempts for an F1 interview.
- The goal of the US Consulates is to make sure, more first time F1 Student visa applicants are given an opportunity to go for visa stamping and present their case the, rather than giving more chances to rejected applicants. They believe that the approval rate of rejected students in first interview is usually lower in the subsequent second or third attemts, and hence making this change.
- Suggestion from the consulates to Students is to not think about the second or third interview slot and give the best shot in the first interview.
- F1 Interview Waiver: There was a policy given last year with US Visa Interview Waiver eligibility for certain F1 Applicants, with any previous approved US Visa. In that context, if you have a previous B1/B2 Visa valid, you can get an interview waiver based on that previous B1/B2 visa and apply for a Dropbox appointment for F1 Visa Stamping.
- Also, Mr. Don Heflin said that Bank Statements are not mandatory documents for F1 students. They want to know the real reason a student is planning to study in the US and they are not interested in knowing about student life or the program.
- Also, it was clarified by them that all the above F1 visa related appointments guidance will be applicable for M Visas and J Visas as well.
- F1 Dropbox slots would also be be open in middle of June.
B1/B2 Visa Appointments Updates
- B1/B2 Fresh Visa or first-time applicants: Appointment Slots for first time B1/B2 visa applicants are planned to open in the next few weeks.
- The actual B1/B2 Visa interviews are planned to start on Sep 1st, 2022.
- They will be opening them in 500 slots per day.
- B1/B2 Dropbox appointments are open for the 3rd week of July 2022.
H1B, L1, H4, L2 Visa Appointments Updates
- In the next 12 months, US Consulates in India plan to process about 300,000 appointments for H and L visa categories ( H1B, H4, L1, L2)
- Most of the dropbox slots for for H1B, H4, L1, and L2 Visas are not available for the summer. They are oversubscribed. Few slots may open now and then depending on capacity.
- The dropbox slots for H and L visa would would be opening for September and far beyond in the future, in the upcoming weeks. The key thing is you will get a slot, but it could be far in the future, just need to plan accordingly.
- You can get H1B, H4, L1, or L2 visa in-person appointments for the 3rd week of July 2022 in Chennai.
- Blanket L Visas :
- Dropbox is not possible for Blanket L Visas due to technical reasons and they need in-person appointment.
- Blanket L visa – Interview slots to open in the middle of June.
Emergency US Visa Appointments in India Updates
- Changes to Placeholder Slots :
- Going forward, visa applicants no longer need to book a fake or placeholder slot that will be cancelled in the future.
- They will be able to retain the slot that they booked far into the future, if their expedited request is not approved.
- If you get an expedited approval, then you don’t have to cancel it
- Emergencey Appointments are prioritzed for situations like death in family, serious hospitalization, business person on critical business work to create jobs, etc.
- No Emergecney appointments would be given for applicants to attend graduation ceremonies or weddings.
What do you think of the above changes? Do you think they will help solve the issue ? Share your thoughts or questions in the comments section below
Official Facebook Live Video Recording
You can watch the video recording of the actual session at below link