H1B Visa News: Delay in Obtaining US Embassy Dates Affects Travel Plans for H-1B Visa Holders | India News

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In the United States, thousands of Indians on H-1B visas face difficulties planning international travel, including visiting family in India, as they need a valid visa on their passport before returning to the United States.
There are long delays in securing dates at the U.S. Embassy and Consulates, even though many of them are eligible for interview waivers.
Besides the problem of unavailability of dates for visa interviews or even for the submission of documents in cases where interviews are cancelled, there is a risk of administrative delays or security checks which could further delay the processing time. H-1B visas.
Shalini Kumar (name changed) is an example. She works at a computer company in Texas and has held an H-1B visa for eight years. Kumar has not visited her parents in Bengaluru since the pandemic and is now struggling to get a drop box appointment as she needs to get a visa before returning to the United States after her visit.
There are no available dates for the next few months so she cannot plan the trip. Her situation is further complicated because her son, who has an H4 dependent visa, is now over 14 and not eligible for a visa interview waiver. Getting an interview date for him is proving even more difficult and there are no dates available on the online booking system yet. Kumar does not know when she will finally be able to see her parents again.
“Even for filing applications, in case of visa interview waiver, H-1B visa holders traveling to India need appointment to file the documents. Appointments are not readily available. Before traveling to India, they should actually check appointments frequently so that they can book one when dates become available. Further appointments are likely to become available in the coming weeks and particularly in August-September 2022 and beyond,” says immigration lawyer Poorvi Chothani.
Currently, several nonimmigrant visa applicants applying for U.S. visas may be eligible for interview waivers if they meet certain criteria.
These waivers apply to temporary workers who require H-1, H-3, H-4, L, O, P, or Q visas under certain conditions and provided they apply for a visa in their country of nationality or of residence.
These waivers also apply to qualified students, professors, researchers, short-term scholars or specialists (F, M and J scholar visa applicants). However, even candidates eligible for interview waivers have to make an appointment in a drop box and before getting these appointments, they cannot travel to India.
“The ongoing visa interview waivers will be available until the end of 2022 and are expected to significantly reduce visa wait times. Applicants who are due to renew a visa in the same category as an expired visa within 12 months prior to the new visa application date have been eligible for interview waivers (subject to certain conditions) even in the past. The big difference now is that the applicant can apply for a new visa category and must have held a valid nonimmigrant visa for the past 48 months,” Chothani said.
However, since drop box appointments are not readily available at diplomatic posts in India, an applicant would have to repeatedly check for appointments, which could go against the “reduction wait times for visas”, which was the objective of this new exemption criterion, adds Chothani. However, the good news is that things are looking up – consular officers in India have promised additional appointments in the coming weeks, but more so from July 2022.
“My advice to H-1B visa holders who are planning to travel to India and need a visa stamp is not to travel unless they have a firm appointment in the near future, because appointments that are issued for a date several weeks away are subject to cancellation,” Chothani said.
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