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The Backlog is Back: Extended Waits for Consular Interviews

Posted by Hugo R. Valverde, Managing Attorney, and Anna D. Colby, Attorney Social Media Marketing Manager | Sep 14, 2023 | 0 Comments

Photo by Ron Lach on Pexels

Waiting is hard. But waiting when you are separated from loved ones is even harder. 

We've reported a lot about the backlogs of USCIS, the waits for interviews, and decisions that seem unnecessarily drawn out. But at least for those decisions people are often in the United States waiting. Now, a new report reveals the depths of the backlog at U.S. consular offices abroad, where at some places the wait for an interview is up to four years long. 

In the course of discovery (when each side has to exchange certain information during a lawsuit in preparation for trial) in the lawsuit Afghan & Iraqi Allies v. Blinken, the organization IRAP (International Refugee Assistance Project) found a report from the National Visa Center that listed a scheduling backlog, revealing that the longest waits disproportionately affect those in East and West African countries. 

The backlog also disproportionately affects those wanting to emigrate to the United States, not just visit. For example, the State Department's list of consular locations states that a non-immigrant can get a visa appointment in as little as 6 days in Cape Town, South Africa, but someone wanting an immigrant visa to the United States could wait as long as four years in Accra, Ghana. 

It's a bleak report, and feels even more discouraging considering that one of the Biden Administration's stated goals was to reduce wait times for consular services during the visa process - a goal that seemed to be making some headway last year. But it is important to know the reality of the situation, especially if you or someone in your family is one of the thousands of people waiting to be scheduled for a visa interview at a U.S. consulate or embassy overseas. 

We can only hope that the publishing of these longer wait times pushes the Biden Administration to consider family-based parole for more countries, like was announced for Haiti, Cuba, Colombia, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. Through that initiative, certain family members of U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents who have an approved family-based petition (Form I-130) may be able to wait for an immigrant visa in the United States with their family member on a temporary parole status. 

We will keep you updated if anything changes with that initiative, but for now, we're hoping that the pressure of a coming election year pressures the Administration to do something about the backlog of consular wait times.

If you need assistance with applying for an immigration petition, please reach out to us at (757) 422-8472, or send us a message on our website. You can also schedule an appointment with one of our attorneys by clicking on this link.

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