US Embassy sees heavy visa demand, warns SA travellers to apply ‘as early as possible’

How quickly a visa is granted often varies – while some embassies or consulates can turn a visa application around in 10 days to six weeks, a backlog of applications or peak season travel can impact the process considerably.

For South Africans undeterred by the onerous process of applying for visas, some local travel agents have reported waiting up to six months to secure an appointment at the Consulate General of the United States.

While recent US Consulate processing times are unusual, appointment access isn’t going to improve any time soon, as the US Mission in South Africa has issued a statement encouraging all locals “considering travel to the United States to apply for their visa as early as possible”.

If you’re planning to head to the US for December then now is the time to apply, in order to secure an appointment for a visa interview in time for the planned travel.

The US Embassy says “heavy demand for US visas has currently led to a longer than usual wait time in South Africa. And there is nothing like a refused or failed visa application to stump your travel plans.

If you plan to apply for a non-immigrant visa to go to the United States as a temporary visitor, you can review the current wait time for an interview using the tool available on this Department of State website here. Questions regarding the appointment process also may be directed to 087-550-2160.

A quick check on the US Consulate’s website shows that an application in Cape Town for a visitors visa can see a wait time of 35 calendar days, while in Joburg is can be as much as 58 Calendar days and in Durban, the wait is the longest at 60 calendar days according to the search at the time of publishing.

There is no straight answer in terms of the availability of visa appointments, and in most cases the speed in which a decision is reached remains out of applicants’ hands. While some authorities take less than one week to process a visa, others can take more than six weeks.

“We encourage all potential travellers to apply for their visas several months before the planned travel date.  The US Mission does make every effort to accommodate emergency travel and humanitarian situations, though not every request for an expedited appointment can be accommodated,” says the embassy.

If you already have a valid visas, a renewal application can be submitted at any time. But don’t wait until your current visa expires warns the embassy.

“If a visa is still valid or has expired within the last 12 months, the traveller may be eligible to renew by mail without an interview.”

However, advance travel planning and early visa application are important. As there is nothing like a failed visa application to stunt your travel aspirations.

Selene Brophy

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