Interview-waivers for more applicants: What US Embassy is doing to reduce visa waiting time

How does the interview-waiver work?

The ambit of the “dropbox” facility, which is used to renew a US visa without an in-person interview, is being expanded in several visa categories. If a person has obtained a visa (which may have expired now) in a certain category at any time previously, she now becomes eligible for an interview waiver — and can use the dropbox facility. The interview waiver will be applicable to B1 and B2 (tourist and business) visas that may have expired in the last four years.

How will this help?

Since getting an in-person interview appointment with a US Embassy visa official may be time-consuming, an interview waiver will significantly bring down waiting time for US visas in days to come.

For instance, the estimated wait time for a non-immigrant (B1/B2) visa interview appointment at the US Embassy in New Delhi is currently 925 days (or almost two and a half years), whereas the wait time for interview waiver cases in the same category is 291 days (or nine months).

This facility is, however, subject to the fulfillment of certain conditions.

Applicants for student visas, who have in the past travelled to the US on tourist visas, can also seek an interview waiver, even though they may be called for biometrics in case that wasn’t done earlier.

What exactly is a “drop box”?

A drop box is not literally a box, but a time slot for the submission of the visa application along with the required documentation, that is given by the Embassy. The drop box concept is essentially a bypassing of the interview stage.

How did the problem arise, and what other steps has the US taken?

The US acknowledges that the wait time for applicants has been unusually long in the post-Covid period, mainly because of the huge backlog of applications and staffing problems. It has said that it is taking steps to iron out some of these problems.

Among the steps being taken are the addition of temporary consular staff, and sending dropbox cases for processing elsewhere. According to embassy officials, the wait time has already decreased from 15 months to about nine months.

Before the pandemic, the average wait time, depending on the category of visa, varied between a few weeks (for most visas) to a few months in cases of B1/B2 visas in peak season. US Embassy officials say that by the summer of 2023, they expect visa processing to be back at the pre-pandemic level of around 1.2 million per year.


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