America cuts waiting period for visa applicants


US Ambassador to Kenya Meg Whitman. FILE PHOTO | NMG

The waiting period for visa interviews for Kenyans wishing to visit America has been cut by five months after the US Embassy allowed for renewal of some categories without going for physical appointments.

Kenyans applying for US visas can now secure an interview appointment as early as January next year, compared to a date of June 2024 previously before the review.

The Embassy has been grappling with a backlog of non-immigrant visa interviews at the Nairobi office after the process was halted in 2020 as part of safety measures following the outbreak of Covid-19 menace.

Last year, the US Embassy in Nairobi retooled the interview requirements for a number of visa categories as a measure of addressing the Covid related backlogs for non-immigrant applicants.

The embassy expanded the interview waiver programme for non-immigrant visas for those applying for tourist/business (B1/B2), student (F,J,M), or crew visas (C1/D) categories who are eligible for renewals without an in-person appointment.

To qualify for this programme, one must apply for the same visa category, and the existing permit must not have expired more than a year previously.

Ideally, one is required to choose the next available date on the embassy website to enable them attend a physical interview to know whether their application will be approved or rejected.

The waiting, time, however, is considered to be long given that before Covid, one would get an interview appointment within a fortnight of applying for the visa.

Longer waiting times have impacted negatively on Kenyans who would want to visit the US for business or pleasure under the category B1/B2 visa, especially those who do not have a previous permit that they could renew.

The embassy gives exceptions to applicants requiring to travel to the US on emergency basis, for instance due to loss of an immediate relative or for urgent medical attention.

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