Sanwar Ali: Huge delays in US visa processing at embassies

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By Sanwar Ali:

There were high hopes that when Biden was elected President that this would make it easier for both temporary and permanent migrants to gain entry to the US.   However, COVID-19 related delays have created a huge backlog for US visa processing at US Embassies and Consulates around the world. One bit of good news is that since 29 June 2021 approved national interest exceptions granting faster visa processing are valid for one year and allows multiple entry, instead of the previous validity period of 30 days allowing only single entry.


State Department dealing with backlog of millions of visa applicants

The State Department is dealing with a huge backlog of millions of visa applicants.  These include people waiting for their visas to be issued, whose employers may have already had their L1 visa, H1B visa, E2 visa, etc petition approved by USCIS.  However, when you look at the State Department website you see in many Embassies and Consulates around the World emergency appointments only.   As an example, after doing a search on the State Department website, you will see that only emergency appointments are available for US Embassies in London and New Delhi. 

It may be worth seeing if there is faster visa processing for a US visa in another country where you are a citizen or resident.   Perhaps within the same country visa processing is faster at a consulate, instead of at the US Embassy.


National Interest Exception options for faster US visa processing

If you can come under a critical infrastructure sector or need to support “significant economic activity”, then you may be able to apply for faster US visa processing at the US Embassy or Consulate.  However, it may take some time to consider applications for a National Interest Exception.  Some consulates can deal with the application within a short period of time.  However, the US Embassy in London, for example, can take much longer.


Provide vital support or executive direction for critical infrastructure

If you can come under one of the following industry groups this is one way way of coming under the national interest exception.

  • Chemical

  • communications

  • dams

  • defense industrial base

  • emergency services

  • energy

  • financial services

  • food and agriculture

  • government facilities

  • healthcare and public health

  • information technology

  • nuclear reactors

  • transportation

  • water systems


Provide vital support or executive direction for significant economic activity in the United States

This gives the opportunity for entry to the US more quickly even for those who do not come under a critical infrastructure sector.   Therefore, a wider range of specialists, managers and others may be able to gain entry to the US under the national interest exception.


US visa travel ban countries cause further delays

Countries included in the US “travel ban” are the Schengen area, the United Kingdom, Ireland, China, India, Brazil, South Africa, and Iran.   

The list of Schengen Countries includes Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland.

Those living in these countries have to firstly travel to a safe country and wait fourteen days before being allowed into the US.  Even transit passengers who make a connection in one of these countries will come under the “travel ban”.


US employers suffering skills shortages

According to CNN, there is a record high in job openings made worse due to the difficulty in obtaining US visas at Embassies and Consulates.   The US Chamber of Commerce is calling on Washington to allow entry of more overseas workers.  

Neil Bradley, chief policy officer at the Chamber of Commerce, said the following to CNN Business: 

"We've never seen a situation this broad-based across the country where businesses are having to turn down work because they simply can't find the workers to do it," can help with US employment-based visas

If you would like to apply for a US work visa – including L1 visasE2 visasO1 visas and H1B visas - can help. is a specialist visa services firm with over thirty years of experience dealing with visa applications. We can help with a wide range of visa applications to your country of choice. Contact us for further details. You can also telephone 0344 991 9222.