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The United States has long been a coveted destination for Indian tourists, beckoning travellers with plenty of attractions. However, the path to exploring this dream destination often includes the challenge of securing a visa appointment, especially given the extensive wait times at different centres in India.
As global travel experiences a renaissance, the surge in visa applications from India to the United States has created a substantial backlog, leaving travellers grappling with the disheartening reality of waiting over a year for appointment slots.
But fret not, as Wego brings you a comprehensive guide to averting these exorbitant wait times, and jetting off to the USA as soon as possible.
Table of Contents
Do Indians need a US Visa Appointment?
Yes, Indian citizens planning to travel to the United States are required to obtain a visa, which involves scheduling an appointment at a United States Embassy or Consulate in India. Once the DS-160 application form is submitted and the necessary fees are paid, applicants can proceed to book their visa appointment.
There are two common types of visit (nonimmigrant) visas in the US:
- B1 visa: Recommended for business travel, the B1 Visa is often referred to as the US Business Visa
- B2 visa: Known as the US Tourist Visa, the B2 Visa is designed for tourism, permitting a stay of up to six months. It can be obtained by completing the online DS-160 form
Under specific circumstances, certain Indian citizens may be eligible for an interview waiver, allowing them to obtain a visa without requiring an appointment to undergo an interview. This waiver applies to individuals applying for nonimmigrant visas who fall into the age brackets of either under 14 or over 80 years.
Additionally, those renewing their visas can also qualify for an interview waiver if they meet specific criteria, including:
- the previous visa was issued in India.
- no visa refusals have occurred post-issuance.
- the prior visa was issued after the 14th birthday.
- the previous visa is still valid or expired within the last 12 months (without being annotated as “Clearance Received” or “Department Authorization”).
- the visa was received after 1 January 2008.
Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA) eligibility
The US also has a system known as the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA), which assesses visitor eligibility for travel to the US under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). The VWP enables citizens of specific countries to visit the US for tourism or business for up to 90 days without a visa.
At present, there are 41 countries listed under the United States visa waiver program, including countries like Australia, the United Kingdom and Japan. However, please note that India is not currently included in this program. Therefore, Indian citizens must follow the standard visa application process for travel to the United States.
How can Indians get faster US visa appointments?
There are three following ways in which Indian residents can get faster US visa appointments:
Option 1: Applying for US visa appointment in Kolkata
One of the ways to obtain a faster US visa appointment is through applying from the US Embassy in India, located in the capital city of New Delhi. This is because the Kolkata centre has a significantly lower waiting time when compared to other centres across the country.
Here are the waiting times for each of the centres in India, accurate for December 2023.
Evidently, it is preferable to apply from the Kolkata centre as it has a waiting time of only 206 days for an appointment.
Option 2: Applying for an expedited appointment
In cases of extreme urgency, such as medical emergencies, death, or urgent business matters, applicants have the option to apply for an expedited appointment.
Please note that this option is only available after scheduling a regular appointment and requires prior approval from the embassy, which can only be obtained after providing documentary evidence of said urgent matter.
For more information on expedited appointments, please refer to the US Travel Docs’ official website.
Option 3: Applying for US visa appointment overseas
For Indian citizens facing long wait times for an appointment in their country, another intriguing option is to explore international alternatives for visa appointments. The US Embassy in India has confirmed that Indian applicants can submit their visa applications at any US Embassy or Consulate worldwide.
Moreover, as per the US Travel Docs website, you may apply for your nonimmigrant visa at any U.S. Embassy or Consulate. However, if you choose to do so, you may have to circumvent certain language or communication hurdles during your interview process.
Many Indian citizens and travel agents have confirmed that they have successfully obtained a US visa by making their applications abroad. Countries like Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore, and Indonesia are accepting Indian US visa applications, with significantly shorter wait times.
Which countries to apply from?
For Indian citizens intending to go abroad for their US visa appointment, it is essential to pick a country that is in proximity, provides swift visa options, and offers lesser wait times for appointments. Wego has picked out some of the best options for countries Indians can visit for US visa applications, saving you the hassle of researching on your own.
Here are the best countries Indians can visit to schedule a US visa appointment.
- Vietnam: Provides visa on arrival for Indian citizens
- Thailand: Provides visa-free entry for Indian citizens
- Indonesia: Provides visa on arrival for Indian citizens
- Philippines: Provides tourist visa typically within 10 days of application
- Singapore: Provides tourist visa typically within 3-4 days of application
All of these countries can accommodate Indian visa applicants, owing to a much smaller application backlog. As US Travel Docs follows a uniform approach toward application processing, the application requirements and procedures are identical to those in India, which have been outlined above.
Please note that the specific visa requirements may vary based on an individual’s nationality and travel history, and some citizens or expatriates may be eligible for visa-free entry or visa-on-arrival access to these countries. Hence, it is advisable to research the specific requirements of each country before planning your trip.
Estimated wait times
The wait time for an interview appointment at a US embassy or consulate can change weekly based on the incoming workload and staffing.
The following table outlines the wait times for applicants in the listed countries, according to data obtained from the US Department of State’s travel information. Please note that these wait times are accurate as of December 2023 and may be subject to change.
Visa application procedure
The visa application and interview scheduling procedures are primarily facilitated by a third-party entity known as US Travel Docs.
To apply for a US B1 or B2 visa from India, these steps must be followed:
- determine the type of visa required for your particular purpose of travel
- complete the Non-immigrant Visa Electronic Application (DS-160) online form
- log in to the applicant system hosted by US Travel Docs to establish a personal profile
- make the visa application (MRV) fee payment
- schedule an appointment for the visa interview
- gather the required supporting documents
- attend the scheduled interview
- retrieve your passport and accompanying documents upon completion of the process
The following details outline the expenses related to visa applications in each of the listed countries, encompassing the costs for accommodation, meals, and local transportation.
Please be aware that these prices are accurate for the period of December 2023 and may be subject to change. It is recommended to verify these costs with official airline and hotel websites.
- the approximate costs of the visa applications are THB 6,845
- direct flights start at INR 10,999
- accommodation starts from INR 4,874 in and around Bangkok
- food prices start from around THB 60 for a typical dinner
- transport starts from THB 35 for taxi fares in Bangkok
- the approximate costs of the visa applications are SGD 246
- direct flights start at INR 9,376, and connecting flights start at INR 11,835
- accommodation starts from INR 3,083 in and around Singapore
- food prices start from around SGD 30 for a typical dinner
- transport starts from SGD 4 for taxi fares in Singapore
- the approximate costs of the visa applications are VND 46,250,00
- direct flights start at INR 12,578, and connecting flights start at INR 17,749
- accommodation starts from INR 2,058 in and around Hanoi
- food prices start from around VND 1,50,000 for a typical dinner
- transport starts from VND 10,000 for taxi fares in Hanoi
- the approximate costs of the visa applications are IDR 29,600,00
- connecting flights start at INR 13,545
- accommodation starts from INR 2,273 in and around Jakarta
- food prices start from around IDR 25,000 for a typical dinner
- transport starts from IDR 7,000 for taxi fares in Jakarta
- the approximate costs of the visa applications are PHP 10,253
- connecting flights start at INR 22,830
- accommodation starts from INR 1,643 in and around Manila
- food prices start from around PHP 200 for a typical dinner
- transport starts from PHP 40 for taxi fares in Manila
Tips for Planning Your Trip
Here are some useful things to keep in mind when planning a trip to these countries for a US visa appointment.
- plan ahead to secure visas and understand destination requirements.
- check visa exemptions and consider nearby countries for potentially shorter wait times.
- verify visa application costs, accommodation, meals, and local transportation expenses.
- invest in comprehensive travel insurance for unforeseen events during your trip.
- familiarize yourself with local customs and etiquette for a respectful experience.
- exchange a small amount of local currency for initial expenses.
- save essential contacts, including the local embassy, and share your itinerary with someone back home.
- pack according to the destination’s weather and cultural norms, ensuring you have all essential documents.