US Embassy in UAE to expedite visa appointments amid high demand

The Covid-19 pandemic restricted the interviewing of many candidates for the non-immigrant visa, which led to a backlog

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SM Ayaz Zakir

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Published: Thu 23 Nov 2023, 6:00 AM

Last updated: Thu 23 Nov 2023, 10:46 PM

With appointments for US visas available only after a year, a diplomat has said the mission in the UAE is trying to speed up the process.

“We are working to expand and improve to increase our capacity and expedite appointments,” Ron Packowitz, country consular coordinator, told Khaleej Times in an exclusive interview.

“There is a high demand to travel to the US post-pandemic, not just from UAE, but worldwide,” added Packowitz.

In an earlier interview with travel industry experts in the UAE, Khaleej Times reported about the unprecedented demand among UAE residents to travel to the US, and the closest available date for an appointment in Dubai is October 18, 2024. In Abu Dhabi, it is only in November 2024.

Pandemic creates backlog

Elaborating on the reasons for the delay, Packowitz said that the pandemic restricted the interviewing of many candidates for the non-immigrant visa, which led to a backlog. “By law, we are required to interview visa applicants. Because of the pandemic and some of the restrictions put by the local governments, we were unable to bring them into our consular section for interviews. Many of them still want to travel to the US,” said Packowitz.

"Post-pandemic, we have received more applications for non-immigrant visas than we received pre-pandemic. Now the pandemic is over, there is enormous interest in travel from around the world,” said Packowitz.

Ron Packowitz, country consular coordinator
Ron Packowitz, country consular coordinator

Priority for some

The consular coordinator further mentioned that for some applicants, the embassy is working on improving the backlog and offering visa appointments more quickly.

“We prioritise visa interviews for some travellers like students, medical emergency, urgent business travel, and people with expired visas,” said Packowitz.

“For students travelling to the US, we do everything we can for them to arrive the first day of their classes. Businessmen with urgent travel requirements travelling to the US to sign an important deal have also been given attention, along with travellers seeking urgent medical care,” said Packowitz.

However, for residents with largely expired visas in the last four years, “it is not necessary to visit the consulate and they can receive it via Emirates post,” said Packowitz.

Visa appointment elsewhere

Appointments for US visas can be obtained in any country and people are entitled to apply wherever they like, said Packowitz.

“Depending on the availability of the appointments, residents can opt to appear for the interview in any GCC countries or their preferred location,” added Packowitz.

Additional daily appointments

Every day, the embassy adds additional appointments to ease the process and quicken the interview process for UAE residents.

“Each day we look to see whether we are able to add additional appointments, and we do that periodically,” said Packowitz adding that it is possible to visit the official website periodically to find appointments much sooner than the actual appointment.

‘Plan a year ahead’

Packowitz advised the residents to plan at least a year ahead of their travel to the US. “I advise travellers to plan far ahead of their travel. People who know that they have travel coming up must plan over a year in advance and they should start the application process as soon as they have travel in mind,” said Packowitz.

“It is essential not to make irreversible plans until they have their visas in hand,” added Packowitz.

Recommendations

Undoubtedly, there are thousands of destinations and attractions across the United States of America for a memorable trip or vacation. However, for the residents of the Middle East, Packowitz recommends taking a trip to Chicago, New York, Southern and Northern California, and Orlando.

“One can experience great food and local sports in Chicago. New York will never disappoint you, it will exceed your expectations. In California, travellers can visit theme parks and Redwood trees that have trunks wide enough to carve a tunnel,” said Packowitz.

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