United States: Lengthy Visa Appointment Backlogs at U.S. Consulates in India
Foreign nationals who need to apply for an H or L visa in India currently face visa appointment wait times of 75 to more than 115 days at the U.S. consulates in Chennai, Hyderabad, Mumbai and New Delhi. The appointment backlog is likely to delay U.S. employment start dates and reentry to the United States, unless applicants are able to secure a visa appointment at another consulate. Backlogs are likely to increase as the October 1 start date for FY 2017 H-1B cap employment nears.
U.S. consulates in India are experiencing significant backlogs in nonimmigrant visa appointments for H, L and other employment-based nonimmigrant visas. Foreign nationals seeking a nonimmigrant visa are facing wait times of 75 to more than 115 days to secure an appointment in Chennai, Hyderabad, Mumbai and New Delhi. The delays do not affect B-1/B-2 visitor visas or F-1 student visas.
D emand for U.S. visas has increased over the last several months, but there has been no increase in consular staff at the U.S. mission to India, leading to the current backlog.
Alternatives for Foreign Nationals and Employers
If you are an Indian national with an imminent need to obtain an employment-based nonimmigrant visa, you and your U.S. employer should consider the following options:
- Apply at the U.S. consulate in Kolkata. The U.S. consulate in Kolkata currently has a wait time of 13 days for employment-based nonimmigrant visa appointments, but that period is likely to increase as foreign nationals with an imminent need to travel book appointments there. If you are seeking an H-1B, individual L-1 or other employment-based nonimmigrant visa, you may be able to get an appointment in Kolkata, but you must act quickly because appointment slots are likely to be filled soon. This option is not available to principal applicants for blanket L-1 visas in India, which are under the sole jurisdiction of the U.S. consulate in Chennai. However, blanket L-2 dependents applying separately from the principal nonimmigrant may apply in Kolkata.
- Apply at a U.S. consulate outside India as a third-country national (TCN). You and your dependents may be able to secure a TCN visa appointment at a consulate outside India. This may be the only option for blanket L-1 visa applicants with a need to travel to the United States soon. However, there are additional travel costs associated with this option, and you may also need to apply for a foreign visa to the third country.
The lengthy backlogs mean that Indian employment-based nonimmigrant visa applicants are likely to face delays in beginning their U.S. employment. H and L nonimmigrants already in the United States may face delays in international travel and reentry. The backlogs are likely to increase as the October 1 start date for FY 2017 H-1B cap employment nears.
This alert is for informational purposes only. If you are an Indian national with an imminent need to obtain a U.S. employment-based nonimmigrant visa, please contact your Fragomen professional as soon as possible to discuss options.