The Department of State (DOS) has announced that the agency’s work to reduce processing times has made significant progress. A recent media note from the department added that visa processing times expect to drop to pre-COVID-19 pandemic wait times in the Fiscal Year 2023.
In addition, the DOS stated that visa processing is recovering from delays created by the pandemic far faster than original expectations. This news comes after facing concerns over the significant backlog of applications from countries such as India. These delays have resulted from a variety of factors.
First, many visas require in-person interviews; however, pandemic-related restrictions in many countries led to an inability to perform these meetings as usual. As a result, the DOS could not process the same number of visa applications.
Now that most countries have removed these restrictions, the DOS has stated that 96% of its embassies and consulates have returned to routine visa services. However, the build-up in demand from the two years when they could not process visas significantly increased demand in many locations. This demand also impacted wait times, particularly for the first-time visitor and immigrant visa applicants.
As of November this year, the median worldwide wait time for a B-1 and B-2 visa interview appointment is approximately two months. However, in certain locations, the wait may prove far longer. For example, on October 31st, the DOS reported a more than 900-day wait time for the same visas across consulates in India and a 300-day wait time for petition-based temporary work visas.
However, the DOS claims to have made great strides in reducing visa interview wait times and returning to pre-pandemic processing levels. The DOS has accomplished this through measures like doubling the number of US Foreign Service personnel dedicated to these tasks. In addition, they chose to maintain the interview waiver policy, which would have expired in 2021 but received an extension into 2023.
The DOS has also begun using the interview waiver program to reduce the workload on backlogged posts. For example, the DOS has remotely adjudicated non-immigrant applications that do not require an interview. Through these steps, the DOS has successfully processed more visas in categories like the H-2 visas than in FY 2019.
This success is good news for many employers still contending with labor shortages. However, employers looking to hire foreign national workers should consider the additional paperwork difficulties that can come with hiring these workers. Foremost among these is often the Form I-9, which often proves increasingly complex.
The best way to ensure compliance and simplify the employment eligibility verification process is with an electronic I-9 management tool. This tool can help navigate the process while ensuring compliance and providing effective and secure storage for forms and documentation.
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