South African travelers face long wait for visas – US appointments won’t open until 2023

  • South Africans wishing to travel abroad have faced visa processing delays.
  • These delays are most noticeable for those wishing to visit America, without appointment slots in 2022, according to Rennies BCD Travel.
  • Prospective travelers can get an “appointment waiver,” significantly speeding up the process, if they’ve had a U.S. visa that expired within the past two years.
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Visa processing delays are frustrating South Africans seeking to travel abroad, with United States (US) Consulate interview appointments not available until February 2023 .

“Visa availability continues to be an issue for travellers,” business and online travel management company Rennies BCD Travel warned in a customer advisory on Friday.

A massive backlog of visa applications, stemming from the pandemic-induced lockdown, which effectively halted travel and closed embassies, coupled with a resurgence in international movement over the past six months, has led to longer processing times. Like airports experiencing chaos during summer holidays in Europe, staffing shortages are also impacting embassies.

In January, VFS Global, the world’s largest visa outsourcing company, confirmed longer waiting times and limited appointment slots. The United States warned “it could take several months to set up an appointment for an interview”, while the British High Commission in Pretoria, in Mayconfirmed “longer processing times” and urged travelers to “apply in a timely manner”.

Appointment and visa processing times for some European destinations, such as Austria, Denmark, Italy and Spain, range from two weeks to six weeks. Although Germany is taking appointments in August, Rennies quotes the total processing time as being up to four weeks, while the earliest date for an appointment with the Dutch Embassy in Pretoria is September 1st.

Wait times for an appointment for those wishing to travel to the UK are not as long – estimated between one and two weeks according to Rennies – but the processing time could take up to two months.

Table of visa waiting times sent by Rennies BCD Travel on July 29, 2022

Getting a visa appointment to travel to the United States has the longest wait time of any country Rennies lists. Appointments in Cape Town only open in February 2023, while waiting time in Johannesburg extends until May 2023.

The long wait for US visa appointments cited by Rennies is confirmed by the US Department of Consular Affairs. Obtaining a visitor visa appointment in Johannesburg is estimated to take 240 days, or eight months, while the waiting period for “all other non-immigrant visas” is slightly shorter, at 210 days.

Getting an appointment for a U.S. visitor visa in Cape Town, according to the Department of Consular Affairs website, will take 121 days or about four months, which is faster than Rennies’ estimate. Rennies, however, warns of a processing time of up to 12 weeks. Those applying for an exchange student/visitor visa can get an interview within three days, compared to two months for the same in Johannesburg.

There may, however, be some relief for those who have had a US visa in the past.

“If you’ve ever had a U.S. visa that expired within the last 48 months, you may be eligible for an ‘appointment waiver’. This option takes four to 12 weeks to clear,” Rennies explained.

“There is no option for an earlier appointment unless the traveler has a humanitarian case or can demonstrate an urgent or compelling need to travel on business.”


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