Before stepping foot onto your college or university’s campus for the first day of class, international students must secure a valid U.S. student visa. During the COVID-19 pandemic, this proved difficult since many overseas consulates remained closed or were not issuing visas to students.
In late 2022, the U.S. Department of State announced that 96 percent of embassies and consulates abroad are resuming regular U.S. visa services. But now, applicants are facing stressful delays with U.S. student visa processing times. Here’s what to know about the U.S. study visa delay and what to do if this happens to you.
The usual processing time for a U.S. student visa is different for each embassy or consulate. U.S. student visa processing time depends on the availability of visa services and if they’re in high demand in your originating country.
For example, the current in-person appointment wait time for F-1 visa student applicants in Mumbai is 84 calendar days. In Paris, the wait time for an interview is four calendar days, while it’s 13 calendar days in Beijing, China.
The expected wait time in your country might be different, and the estimated wait times don’t include administrative processing. Always check the U.S. Embassy or Consulate website for your area in advance.
Below are a few of the common reasons why your student visa approval is delayed.
U.S. student visa applications might undergo multiple security checks. Details like your country of birth, nationality, or even having a common name might cause your application to be flagged for additional security clearance.
Students who are studying in certain academic fields, like a science-based field, might also be flagged for further security checks.
Aside from going through the appropriate security checks for a student visa, local events in your area can impact how quickly routine visa services are processed.
For example, a COVID-19 outbreak, inclement weather, or civil unrest in the area might raise safety and security concerns. In this situation, the U.S. Embassy might be closed indefinitely. You can check the operating status of U.S. Embassies and Consulates on the Bureau of Consular Affairs website.
If your local U.S. Embassy or Consulate has resumed regular visa services and you’ve submitted all of the forms needed, you might simply experience delays because of an administrative backlog.
The U.S. Department of State noted that for the 2021-22 academic year, it issued more student visas than any prior year since 2016. This shows the high demand for a U.S. study visa, and why you should expect longer than usual processing times.
Visa processing only recently became accessible again in the last couple of years following the pandemic. There might not be sufficient staffing to support the number of applications. However, the State Department has tried easing the strain by introducing solutions, like the in-person interview waiver for some students.
At InternationalStudent.com you might also find some helpful tips around gaining your student visa, including the interview process.
If your student visa to study in the U.S. is delayed, consider taking the following steps while you actively work on addressing your visa issues.
Not everyone will experience a U.S. study visa delay, however, it’s increasingly common. If your local U.S. embassy or consulate is experiencing high student visa application volumes it might be catching up to backed-up demand due to COVID-19 and other closures.
The best action you can take is to apply for your U.S. study visa earlier than later to accommodate processing delays. Even then, it’s wise to have a backup plan – like inquiring about taking a leave of absence or other options – if your student visa is delayed.
If you experience a U.S. study visa delay, the first step is to contact your school’s department of international student affairs. Inform them about your visa’s processing status, and ask about your options if you can’t get your F-visa approved before classes begin.
The U.S. student visa processing time is different, depending on your unique situation and how busy the U.S. Embassy or Consulate is in your home area. The U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs has a tool that lets you see the estimated wait time for a student visa appointment.
There is no way to make the U.S. study visa processing times go faster. Your school also doesn’t have the ability to expedite the wait time. Your best option is to complete your online nonimmigrant visa application (form DS-160) accurately as soon as allowed and give yourself as much time as possible to perform the interview appointment.
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