Steps taken in recent weeks to reduce visitor visa wait times for travelers to the United States—by up to half in some key markets such as India—mark substantive progress by the U.S. Department of State following months of consistent advocacy from the travel industry.
“By enacting smart and effective policies, the State Department is taking an active role in investing in the travel economy’s recovery,” said U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Geoff Freeman.
“State must remain laser focused on solving this critical issue and set clear goals and limits for acceptable wait times.”
Interview wait times for the top 10 inbound visa-requiring markets (excluding China) still exceed 400 days, according to U.S. Travel analysis. However, global average wait times have dropped below 150 days for the first time since 2021.
The State Department implemented a “Super Saturdays” initiative where embassies and consulates open on Saturdays to process visas. One such event took place at the Monterrey, Mexico, consulate this past Saturday, where visa interview wait times have now fallen by more than a hundred days from 545-day highs in mid-December.
The administration also waived interview requirements for low-risk renewals of visitor, worker and student visa classes. Further, State projects to be fully staffed by summer 2023 and have interview wait times under 120 days by the end of FY23—levels that are significantly better than wait times today, but still far exceed what the economy needs for robust inbound travel recovery.
Key markets that have experienced staggering waits—such as Brazil, Mexico and India—are seeing measurable progress. India has notably progressed from a mid-December high of 999 days to 577 days as of January 19.
This is a crucial step forward in restoring the inbound travel market. In 2019, 35 million international visitors and $120 billion in spending came from countries where a visa is required to enter the United States. Brazil, India and Mexico alone accounted for nearly 22 million of these visitors.
“Wait times are still excessively high despite marked improvements in countries like India,” added Freeman.
“While we appreciate State’s efforts, much work remains to bring interview wait times down to an acceptable level.”