Special thanks to summer associate Sara Schiavone for her work on this blog post.

Human resource professionals who are managing the immigration processing for Indian nonimmigrant employees should be aware of the increased processing times for the visa application at consulates in India. The extraordinary increase in routine processing for nonimmigrant visas requires significantly more planning to avoid long periods of non-productivity while employees are stranded abroad waiting for a visa appointment.

It was not that long ago that one week was seen as a standard timeframe to receive an interview appointment. However, applicants now experience wait times as long as four months. As of July 2016, current wait times for nonimmigrant visa (NIV) interview appointments other than B (visitor), F (student) and J (exchange visitor) at the following consular posts are:

  • Chennai —112 Days
  • Hyderabad —116 Days
  • Kolkata —104 Days
  • Mumbai —71 Days
  • New Delhi —111 Days

Increased wait times are attributable to an 80 percent increase in United States visa demands over the past five years. Although the U.S. Department of State (DOS) is working with the Indian government to curb wait times by adding additional positions at the consular posts, the American Immigration Lawyers Association DOS Liaison Committee anticipates wait times will continue to worsen.

Indian nationals should consider delaying unnecessary travel until interview wait times subside. If Indian nationals must travel, they should secure an appointment time well in advance of their travel date. They should also closely monitor consular wait times to potentially decrease their wait time.

Indian nationals who have reason to travel to another jurisdiction may apply for a visa outside of India as a Third Country National (TCN). However, this process is not as certain as obtaining a NIV through traditional interview appointments. Consular posts have varying rules concerning the acceptance of TCNs. As a result, Indian nationals are urged to check the requirements at their desired consular post. Some posts accept Indian nationals based on the Indian national’s specific situation. Factors that posts consider include:

  1. the Indian national’s reason for traveling to the jurisdiction;
  2. the Indian national’s visa classification; and
  3. whether the Indian national’s visa is an initial application or merely an extension.

Further, Indian nationals should be aware that countries such as Canada greatly restrict TCN visa processing during summer months.

It is possible for Indian nationals to request an expedited appointment. It is important to note that expedited appointments primarily are reserved for humanitarian issues. Requests for expedited appointments for business emergencies are subject to heightened scrutiny and are rarely granted. When making an expedited request related to a business purpose, the business must articulate:

  1. why advance travel was not feasible;
  2. why the need to travel is urgent; and
  3. the adverse impact the company will experience if travel fails to occur.

If applicable, the business may demonstrate evidence of a necessary training program, lasting three months or less, in the United States that the Indian national must attend.

Lastly, in limited circumstances, Indian nationals who are applying for temporary employment visas such as an H-1B or L-1 and who have a prior visa in the same class that is still valid or expired within the last 12 months may qualify for the Interview Waiver Program (IWP). To quality for the IWP, the Indian national’s current visa must have been issued by a consulate in India. Complete instructions can be found on the website for the Consulate’s preferred contractor at this link. Even if an Indian national does qualify for the interview waiver, there is no guarantee the visa will be issued. Thus, Indian nationals should still submit the application well in advance of their travel date in case an interview is necessary.