How does the maintenance waiver work?
The scope of the “drop box”, which is used to renew a US visa without an in-person interview, is extended to several visa categories. If a person has obtained a visa (which may have now expired) in a certain category at any time before, they now become eligible for an interview waiver – and can use the drop box. The interview waiver will be applicable to B1 and B2 (tourist and business) visas that may have expired within the last four years.
How will this help?
Since obtaining an in-person interview appointment with a U.S. Embassy visa officer can take time, an interview waiver will significantly reduce visa wait times Americans in the coming days.
For example, the estimated wait time for a nonimmigrant (B1/B2) visa interview appointment at the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi is currently 925 days (almost two years and a half), while the wait time for maintenance waiver cases in the same category is 291 days (or nine months).
This facility is however subject to compliance with certain conditions.
Student visa applicants, who have previously traveled to the United States on tourist visas, may also apply for an interview waiver, although they may be called for biometrics in case this has not been done more early.
What is a “drop box”?
A drop box is not literally a box, but a time slot for submitting the visa application with the required documentation, which is given by the embassy. The drop box concept is essentially a bypass of the maintenance stage.
How did the problem arise and what other actions has the United States taken?
The United States acknowledges that the wait time for applicants has been unusually long in the post-Covid period, primarily due to the huge backlog of applications and staffing issues. He said he was taking steps to address some of these issues.
Among the measures taken are adding temporary consular staff and sending filing cases for processing elsewhere. According to embassy officials, the wait time has already dropped from 15 months to about nine months.
Before the pandemic, the average wait time, depending on the visa category, ranged from a few weeks (for most visas) to a few months in the case of B1/B2 visas during peak season. US Embassy officials say that by the summer of 2023, they expect visa processing to return to pre-pandemic levels of around 1.2 million per year.