In a recent briefing, Julie Stufft, the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Visa Services in the State Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs, provided an update on visa services, indicating that visa processing times abroad are improving, but that progress varies across visa-adjudicating posts. “The bottom line is that we’re recovering faster than we projected after a near-complete shutdown and freezing of our consular operations overseas during the pandemic,” Stufft said. “But this progress is still uneven across many of our posts overseas and we will need some additional time and tools to resolve wait times everywhere worldwide, which is our goal.”

Key Points:

  • State Department posts overseas have adjudicated about 70 percent more nonimmigrant visas than last year.
  • Each month, posts overseas are adjudicating about 800,000 nonimmigrant visa applications—about 80% of pre-pandemic levels.
  • Immigrant visa processing is at about 95% of pre-pandemic levels at posts overseas.
  • The State Department is actively engaged in increasing the number of consular officers who are overseas adjudicating visas. Officials have doubled consular officer hiring this year from last year’s numbers.
  • The State Department has a growing team of adjudicators who are supporting high-demand posts by remotely adjudicating visa applications when possible.”

Background: The COVID-19 pandemic and related staffing issues limited the number of visas the State Department could process at embassies and consulates abroad. This led to a backlog of visa applications, delaying adjudication across visa categories. Early this year, the State Department announced that it would increase hiring to help address the problem.

BAL Analysis: While the State Department is working to address visa backlogs, continued processing delays should be expected. Service levels vary from post to post, and some applicants continue to face extensive delays in scheduling interviews or obtaining their visas.

Strategies for obtaining visas in a timely manner will vary from case to case. For example, the State Department has said that foreign nationals who face delays at their home consulate may be able to travel to a consulate in a third country to obtain services. In practice, this has proved challenging—especially for B1/B2 visa applicants—and third-country nationals often face difficulty getting an appointment. Wait times online may not be reflective of actual wait times for third-country nationals. Expedited services may be available in some cases involving business, medical or humanitarian travel; however, the availability of these services has also varied from post to post.

BAL will continue to monitor efforts to address processing delays and will provide more information as it becomes available. Employers and employees should continue to consult their BAL professional before planning international travel.

This alert has been provided by the BAL U.S. Practice group. For additional information, please contact

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