Moran, Senate colleagues question State Department about visa processing delays

U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran (R-KS) joined a bipartisan group of lawmakers in questioning what steps the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs has taken to address delays in visa processing. 

“Constituents across our states have reported that delays in the processing of visas have kept employees, loved ones, and friends waiting to travel to the United States — in some cases for over two years,” wrote Sen. Moran and five of his colleagues in a Feb. 17 letter sent to Assistant Secretary Rena Bitter.

Currently, the average wait time for an appointment at a U.S. consulate for a visitor visa is 25 weeks, though times may vary from consulate to consulate, they wrote, noting it might take 40 days to schedule a visa appointment in the United Kingdom, while wait times for temporary worker visas may extend beyond 200 days at some U.S. consulates in India.

“These delays impact industries, businesses, universities, and families across the United States,” wrote Sen. Moran and the lawmakers, who were led in signing the letter by U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN).

In addition, processing delays make the U.S. less attractive to companies that may want to do business because they are hindered from bringing key employees to the states on L-1 and H-1B visas, and even from building out new operations that these employees would have supported, according to their letter.

At the same time, visa processing delays also keep families apart, the senators wrote, pointing out that their constituents, who are in the process of bringing their immediate relatives to the U.S., have reported waiting over a year for an appointment for an immigrant visa.

“We acknowledge the administration’s attempts to decrease wait times by employing critical technology, working across countries, and improving transparency,” they wrote. “Unfortunately, delays in consular processing continue to present roadblocks for both the businesses and communities that rely on our legal immigration system and temporary guest worker, student, and tourist visas to drive our economy and culture.”

They asked Bitter to answer several questions by March 10, including how the State Department is working with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to address the issue, and if the department has considered video interviews for certain visa applicants, among others.