Visa Processing Delays Expected into Next Year

Understaffed and closed U.S. consulates around the globe are resulting in extensive visa delays for foreign workers trying to work in the U.S. — delays that could last well into 2022.

A citizen of a foreign country who seeks to enter the U.S. generally must first obtain a U.S. visa, which is placed in the traveler’s passport, a travel document issued by the traveler’s country of citizenship.

Certain international travelers may be eligible to travel to the U.S. without a visa if they meet the requirements for visa-free travel. The Visa section of U.S. Visas (state.gov) is all about U.S. visas for foreign citizens to travel to the U.S.

(Note: U.S. citizens don’t need a U.S. visa for travel, but when planning travel abroad may need a visa issued by the embassy of the country they wish to visit. In this situation, when planning travel abroad, learn about visa requirements by country, see country information in the International Travel Section of U.S. Visas (state.gov).

Restricted 33 Countries

The 33 restricted countries are:

  • Brazil.
  • China.
  • Countries in the Schengen area (Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland).
  • India.
  • Iran.
  • Ireland.
  • South Africa.
  • United Kingdom.

Entry into the United States is suspended for all noncitizens who were present in any of the 33 countries during the 14-day period preceding their attempted entry into the U.S.

There are limited exclusions from the restrictions. For example, spouses of U.S. citizens and parents of minor U.S. children are exempt. Lawful permanent residents (green card holders) of the U.S. and U.S. citizens also are exempt.

Some countries, such as Canada, still have COVID-19 restrictions in place, even if they don’t have restrictive visa requirements.

But many Indian nationals have made successful entry into the U.S. from such countries as Turkey and Russia, said Nandini Nair, an attorney with Greenspoon Marder at Edison, N.J.

Employers should be aware that traveling through a restricted country, even without leaving the airport, can result in the U.S. ban prohibiting an employee’s onward travel, thus stranding an employee in a third country.

If foreign nationals are able to secure a consulate outside of the home country, they must be prepared to follow that specific country’s entry requirements, including providing proof of vaccination, a negative COVID-19 test and quarantine requirements.