NEWS & ALERTS
Bright Forecast for Worldwide Visa Operations
The Department of State’s visa processing capacity has recovered faster than projected. We issued more nonimmigrant visas (NIVs) worldwide in 2023 than in any year since 2015. Our visa services promote U.S. economic growth, enable tourism and business travel, foster international student mobility, and maintain the flow of regulated labor, all while protecting national security.
We remain focused on reducing wait times for visitor visa applicants who require an in-person interview, particularly in countries where demand remains at unprecedented levels. We are using new tools to introduce efficiencies and constantly considering ways in which technology improvements can streamline visa processing.
Our goal is for more than 90 percent of our overseas posts to have visitor visa interview wait times under 90 days in 2024. We are proud of the progress we’ve made, inspired by the variety of innovations and initiatives we've undertaken, and we are excited about the future.
Current Visa Processing
Today, more people can travel to the United States than ever before.
Our 230 U.S. Embassies and Consulates overseas issued record-breaking numbers of nonimmigrant visas (NIV) in fiscal year (FY) 2023: more than 10.4 million globally, surpassing any high-water mark in almost a decade. Half of our U.S. embassies and consulates processed their highest total of NIVs. In March 2023, we issued more than one million nonimmigrant visas in a single month for the first time since 2017.
Improved Efficiency through Interview Waivers
During the pandemic, the Department of State coordinated with the Department of Homeland Security to waive in-person interviews for several key visa categories, including for many students and temporary workers integral to key U.S. industries and supply chains.
Additionally, applicants renewing nonimmigrant visas in the same classification within 48 months of the prior visa’s expiration are eligible to apply without an in-person interview in their country of nationality or residence. This continues to be one of our best tools to reduce interview appointment wait times while continuing to make rigorous national security decisions in every case.
We are taking advantage of this tool: 40 percent of the over 10.4 million travelers who received their U.S. nonimmigrant visas in the past 12 months did not require an in-person interview, opening those interview slots for first-time applicants and others who need them.
Building on Success
Our focused efforts during the pandemic recovery period have yielded substantial results in facilitating travel to the United States.
- We reunited families, issuing 563,000 immigrant visas (IVs) in FY 2023, with 30 of our missions issuing their largest number of immigrant visas ever. Our consular sections worldwide have reduced the overall IV interview scheduling backlog by nearly half, from nearly 532,000 in July 2021, to just over 275,500.
- We prioritized student and academic exchange visitor visa interviews to facilitate study at U.S. universities and colleges. International student mobility and cultural exchange are central to U.S. diplomacy, cultural understanding, and economic prosperity – injecting up to $38 billion dollars annually into the U.S. economy. We issued 830,000 student and exchange visitor visas in FY 2023, more than in any year since FY 2016. More than 600,000 of those were for students pursuing an education in the United States, many of them from countries sending record numbers of students. We issued nearly 40,000 visas to African students - a new record.
- We processed seasonal agricultural and non-agricultural workers to facilitate the legal and orderly flow of labor that underpins the American economy. We issued a record-breaking 442,000 visas to H-2A and H-2B temporary workers in 2023, with nearly 90 percent going to qualified workers from Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. These efforts lend critical support to agricultural and non-agricultural sectors in the United States while offering a legal alternative to irregular migration.
- We issued a record-breaking 365,000 nonimmigrant visas to airline and shipping crewmembers (C1/D). These visas are essential for maintaining international transportation and supply chains that support the U.S. and global economies.
- We ensured the United States remains an attractive work environment for foreign talent. We issued 590,000 nonimmigrant and immigrant visas—the most ever—to high-skilled workers and executives in sectors ranging from emerging technology to healthcare. Among those, we issued nearly double the number of EB-3 visas in FY 2023 than in FY 2019, the last full year before the pandemic. This is the immigrant visa category most sought by healthcare workers who are crucial to the health and wellbeing of our communities.
- We issued all the available Diversity Visas during the DV-2023 program year. Since its launch in 1990, this immigrant visa program has helped promote and maintain diversity in the United States through the provision of visas to qualified applicants from countries with low rates of immigration to the United States.
- We enhanced U.S. national security through streamlined processing. The Department of State coordinates with federal government partners through the National Vetting Center, which has dramatically reduced the number of visa applicants who wait for administrative processing. We have recently adopted new technology and enhanced coordination to reduce the number of visa applications that require administrative processing on security grounds, while upholding strict national security protections.
Navigating Longer-than-Usual Visa Interview Wait Times
Our goal is to provide a visa interview for every applicant who requires one in a reasonable timeframe. Although our processing capacity has rebounded faster than projected, demand remains at historically high levels in some countries, and the result is that some visitor visa applicants still face lengthy wait times for an interview.
As wait times continue to drop, we encourage any visa applicant who can travel to another embassy or consulate with shorter wait times to consider doing so. As a global organization, we recognize that there are reasons for applying anywhere appointments are available, even outside your home country and will not disadvantage applicants who chose this route. For the latest information about wait times, visit https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas.html.
Enhancing the Traveler Experience
We are building the infrastructure and designing the processes necessary to launch a pilot program for the domestic renewal of employment visas in January. When fully implemented in the future, this program will allow many temporary workers resident in the United States to renew their visas domestically without leaving the country. After assessing results of the limited-scale pilot, the Department will determine how to broaden the domestic renewal program to an expanded pool of applicants and petition-based visa categories in 2024.
If you need more information or have any questions call 407-226-3659 to schedule a free consultation at our Orlando or Tampa office.