Visa wait times have been very long, and many temporary visa holders who have traveled abroad are concerned that they may need to remain overseas for years. In addition, the United States is still recovering from the pandemic. The recovery has been slow for companies with executives or workers on temporary visas.
Embassies and consular workers are often short-staffed, which has contributed to long wait times and increased travel as countries recover from COVID-19. In addition, the Trump administration stopped processing guest worker visas for two years, stating that it was due to the effect of the pandemic on U.S. workers. During these two years, many H-1B workers or other workers with high-skilled visas had their visa stamps expire and were thus unable to travel back to their home countries to renew them.
Now the wait times for consular offices and embassies are incredibly long. As a result, workers with expired visas must wait to return home or risk remaining in their home country until they can renew their visas. Renewal could take a long time because only consular offices outside the United States can renew the visas. In addition, temporary visa holders must get a stamp on their passport to be allowed to travel internationally; this includes returning to the United States.
Due to this, some have traveled to consular offices in third countries to obtain a visa stamp. However, this only works if there is sufficient capacity in another country.
Long wait times have continued this year even though the State Department has taken steps to improve the situation. These steps include interview waivers for visa holders who have traveled to the United States.
The deputy assistant secretary for visa services with the State Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs, Julie Stufft, stated they made uneven progress in improving the wait times for consular offices, but they are faster than projected.
The State Department has recommended that visa holders make sure they have an appointment to obtain a new passport stamp before traveling abroad. However, Stufft did say that waivers have reduced the wait time for interviews, and increased staffing levels will result in further progress.
Stufft also stated that the agency doubled the number of consular officers sent overseas compared to the previous year. As such, India will significantly benefit from that.
Immigration lawyers and business groups have stated that a simple way to fix the problem of applicants with expired visas is to let them renew their visa stamps in the United States without having to travel abroad. This option is a hot topic, but Stufft admits it may take time because it would be a new operation.
Until this situation improves, some businesses advise their employees with temporary visas not to travel abroad. This inability to travel can be difficult for employers and temporary visa holders. Hopefully, the State Department will resolve this problem soon.
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