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Why US Visa Wait Times Are Even Longer Than Usual

3.25 minute read
"This last year has been exceptionally hard on US immigration due to the global pandemic shutting down immigration services and the travel restriction measures. Former President Trump’s immigration policies also made it several times harder for many immigrants to reach their goals."
Written by My Visa Source Team
Published on:  May 29, 2021
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This last year has been exceptionally hard on US immigration, due to the global pandemic shutting down immigration services and the travel restriction measures. Former President Trump’s immigration policies also made it several times harder for many immigrants to reach their goals. 

All of this has resulted in a visa backlog of almost 2.6 million applications. This backlog can also be attributed to the increased capacity of many immigrant categories, which has increased by 50 to 100 times in the last 4 years. However, as President Biden works hard to undo the many anti-immigration policies introduced by the Trump administration, let’s take a look at what factors caused this substantial backlog. 

Which US Immigration Policies Resulted in a Visa Application Backlog?

Covid-19 Pandemic: 

The Covid-19 virus that swept the globe in 2020 started a global pandemic affecting almost everyone in the world. It has harmed many countries’ immigration systems and processes since travel restrictions and border control was imposed as a measure to control the spread of the virus. 

Last year during March, the United States had to suspend in-person visa services due to a spike in the number of people affected by the virus. After a month, the Trump administration extended a proclamation to stop most immigrants from coming to the US without a visa. Even though the US consulate and embassies gradually began their operations, most services were still suspended except for emergency services. 

Visa Interviews: 

A visa interview is an essential part of getting a visa to the US. Before the virus gained traction in January 2020, the Department of State scheduled around 22,856 visa interviews for the applicants to the family-preference categories. This category alone suffered a nearly 99% drop in 2021. 

In January 2021, only 262 such visa interviews were scheduled. 

Many US immigration attorneys claimed that State Department officials were using temporary pandemic bans on certain regions to deny a visa to applicants. However, this policy was recently reversed for the applicants of the K-1 Fiance visas and immigrant visas for permanent residence. More changes are expected to get the visa interviews back in full speed again. 

Diversity Visa Lottery: 

The Diversity Visa Lottery program grants US immigrant visas to applicants from countries with low levels of immigration to the US. Around 55,000 of these immigrant visas are granted every year through this program. The odds of winning aren’t very high as millions of applicants apply from all over the world. Also, such visas will expire if they aren’t processed and issued within the same year. However, due to the ongoing pandemic, issuing this many visas within a limited time frame has become almost impossible for many US consulates and embassies.

Muslim Ban: 

Revoked by the current President Biden on April 1, 2021, the travel ban imposed on several Muslim and African countries imposed by the Trump administration affected various asylum and immigrant applicants. This led to many immigrants getting rejected if they left blanks in their application forms. Even though it has been revoked, it is expected that many immigrants and asylum seekers will continue facing such problems due to the effect of this ban at least until next year. 

Iran’s Military

In April 2019, President Trump declared the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps to be a terrorist organization in a presidential proclamation. This proclamation barred anyone from that organization from being granted a US visa. However, this is a paradox as every man in Iran is required by the law to serve in the Iranian army and those who do not serve are not allowed to get married, apply for a passport or hold most of the jobs. Therefore, this proclamation effectively banned all adult men in Iran who served in the army from being granted a US visa. This proclamation is yet to be visited by President Biden. However, it is hopeful that this will be reexamined shortly.

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