The Visa Processing Improvement Act (S.2632) would help reduce long waiting times for interviews for nonimmigrant visas. The bill was introduced in the U.S. Senate by Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Senator Jerry Moran (R-KS) on July 27, 2023.
The Visa Processing Improvement Act would:
- Require the Secretary of State to develop goals and standards for processing times for nonimmigrant visas;
- Expand eligibility for in-person interview waivers;
- Create a pilot program to allow for remote video conferencing interviews instead of in-person interviews; and
- Provide an option for expedited processing on a fee basis.
As a consequence of these changes, people applying for nonimmigrant visas would experience shorter waiting times for their interviews.
Every year, the U.S. sees a high volume of applications for nonimmigrant visas. In 2022, there were approximately 6,815,120 nonimmigrant visas issued. These visas are for individuals who intend to come to the United States temporarily for a specific purpose. Over 60% of these visas were issued for individuals coming to the U.S. for temporary business or pleasure. However, since there are many applicants, there can be a long wait time for the visa application interviews.
Wait times vary based on the consular office where an individual files their application. For example, at the U.S. consulate in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, there is a wait time of 809 days for a visitor visa, and at the U.S. consulate in New Delhi, India, there is a wait time of 542 days for a visitor visa. In comparison, some U.S. consulates have extremely short wait times. For example, the U.S. consulate in Naples, Italy, has a wait time of 2 days for a visitor visa. Lengthy wait times negatively impact people applying for visas, as well as U.S. businesses and the U.S. tourism industry.
Specifically, employers may be hesitant to base operations in the United States if employees have to wait months or years to receive authorization to begin working. Furthermore, employers already in the United States may be deterred from hosting conferences or trainings in the U.S. if their international employees cannot receive visas in a timely manner.
The Visa Processing Improvement Act would help ease backlogs in temporary visa processing. By creating goals and standards for visa processing times, expanding in-person interview waivers, and piloting video conferencing interviews, it would improve the nonimmigrant visa application system. The bill would allow applicants to get their visas quicker, allowing them to travel, connect with family, and conduct business. This would be beneficial for the visa applicant, their families, businesses, and the U.S. tourism industry.
Thanks to Forum’s intern Summer Scovil for writing this piece.