Before making travel plans outside the U.S., foreign nationals should review the expiration dates of their nonimmigrant visa classification, passport and visas. So, if you plan to travel abroad and combine it with applying for your visa renewals, please consult with your employer (and Immigration Attorney) so that your workplace is prepared for any unexpected lengthy processing delays in your visa issuance such as lengthy wait times for visa appointments or being made subject to a security background check.
If you need to apply for your visa renewal, check appointment availability at the U.S. Consulates and Embassies and complete the required formalities to make your appointment before you leave the U.S. Although for some visa applicants wait times may be getting shorter in the post Covid world, U.S. Consulates tend to get short staffed in Summer and typically result in longer processing times and delays.
The Department of State (DOS) continues to offer waivers through December 31, 2023 for in- person interviews if you are applying for a visa for the first time or renewal in your country of nationality or residence and you meet specific requirements or qualifications such as no prior visa refusals or ineligibilities; the list of eligible visa applicants includes H-2, F, M, and J visa applicants, as well as beneficiaries with petitions approved by USCIS, such as H-1B, H-3, H-4, L, O, P, and Q visa applicants.
In all cases, we strongly recommend that you check embassy or consulate websites for current and more specific information and requirements regarding whether you may be eligible.
The good news is that certain U.S. Consulates and Embassies are slowly resuming visa processing of Third Country National (TCN) visa applications. Carefully check and confirm visa appointment eligibility and wait times at the specific Consulate for TCN visa applications. Currently, we report that in Europe, U.S. Consulates in Berlin, Frankfurt, Munich, Lisbon, Warsaw, London, Paris, Milan and Istanbul are accepting TCN visa applicants. In the Americas, Bogota, Uruguay and Brazil are available for TCNs. In Asia, Japan, Vietnam, Singapore and Thailand are accepting TCNs.
U.S. Consulates in Mexico are slowly recovering from backlogs in processing visas for Mexican nationals and residents and are still not accepting TCN visa applications. The U.S. consulates in Canada continue to offer TCN processing.
F-1 Students: Travel during Cap-Gap
H-1B visa applicants who have changed status from F-1 to H-1B and who used Curricular Practical Training for employment should consult with an Immigration Attorney to understand whether they will face challenges regarding the maintenance of status. F-1 students who are on cap-gap and plan to travel abroad should also consult with an Immigration Attorney before they make travel plans.
On a related note, if you have U.S. citizen children who need passport renewals, the regular processing wait times are at six months for regular filings.