Trends at the Consular Posts: Preparing for wait times and limited appointment availability this holiday season

By Joe Gloski; December 2, 2019


Foreign nationals planning to travel abroad during the end-of-year holiday season should all have the same item at the top of their to-do lists: schedule a visa appointment!


The U.S. State Department releases wait time data for each of the more than 225 United States consular posts located around the globe.  In a recent review by Chin & Curtis of the data published on November 20, 2019, we observed increasing wait times for visa stamping appointments worldwide. (Please note that all wait time figures noted below are current as of November 20, 2019.)


Each consular post reports separate data for visitor visas, student/exchange visas, and all other visas. Looking more closely at the numbers, some trends emerge. 


First, individuals seeking visa appointments in Canada, Mexico, and India may face difficulty finding anything before early 2020.  For instance, in Canada, Toronto is reporting wait times of 78 days for appointments for visitor visas and 87 days for all other visas, while applicants at Montreal, Ottawa, Quebec, and Halifax are facing wait times of one to three-plus months for these visa types.  In Mexico, applicants for visitor visas are experiencing particularly long wait times, with Mexico City, Nogales, Ciudad Juarez, Monterrey, Nuevo Laredo, Guadalajara, and Tijuana all reporting wait times of at least six weeks.  And in India, applicants at all consulates – Hyderabad, New Delhi, Chennai, Kolkata, and Mumbai – applying for all visa types, including student/exchange visas, are subject to minimum wait times of at least three weeks.


Additionally, wait times within a particular country can vary greatly by visa type.  In Russia, for example, visitor visa applicants face wait times ranging from 30 days (Vladivostok) to 300 days (Moscow), while all other visa applicants need only wait one to two days to receive an appointment.  Similarly, applicants in El Salvador, Curaçao, the Dominican Republic, and Uruguay seeking visitor visas will need to wait at least four weeks for an appointment, while all other applicants in those same countries face minimal wait times. 


Beyond the numbers, it is important to keep in mind a few pointers when deciding where and when to make a visa appointment:


     One.     Appointment wait times are subject to change, sometimes significantly and without notice, due to any number of factors or events that could impact appointment availability. 


     Two.     Not every consulate processes every visa type.  To cite two examples: in China, H and L visas are processed only at the Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Beijing consulates; in India, all blanket L applications are handled at the post in Chennai. 


   Three.   Foreign nationals seeking to process a visa application at a post not located in their home country -- often referred to as third-country nationals -- are frequently subject to additional limitations. These constraints range from limited appointment availability and prohibitions on processing initial applications for  certain visa types, to, in some cases, outright bars from processing at particular posts.


Finally, it is crucial to remember that waiting to secure an appointment is only part of the overall visa processing time.  Once the appointment is held, the consulate must receive clearance from a number of different databases and agencies before it can issue the visa.  While in most cases this processing is completed within a few days, in some cases additional processing – commonly referred to as administrative processing – is required, which can add days, weeks, or even months to the processing time.  (It should be noted that, unfortunately, the State Department no longer releases visa processing wait time data for consular posts.)


Visa applicants are encouraged to consult with their immigration counsel before planning international travel or scheduling a visa appointment at a U.S. consulate abroad.  Chin & Curtis’s team of experienced attorneys and legal professionals is always available to assist with any visa processing questions or concerns.