Want To Visit The U.S.? That Will Be A Two Year Wait

The U.S. has increasingly become an unfriendly place to visit, and that was even before the pandemic. And of course things became even harder thanks to stupid Covid-19 policies. For instance, for well over a year the U.S. allowed unvaccinated Peruvians and Russians to enter the country despite some of the most crushing effects of virus in those places. Yes for most of 2021 vaccinated Europeans who tested negative for the virus were kept out.

When a vaccine requirement for travel to the U.S. by non-residents was imposed, vaccinated Russians weren’t welcome (because the Sputnik vaccine wasn’t on the approved list) while the no better Chinese Sinopharm and Sinovac vaccines counted (the World Health Organization said there was no evidence the Sinovac vaccine reduced infection or transmission – at all).

While the U.S. still has a vaccine requirement for non-residents to travel here, we’re coming out the era of pandemic restrictions generally. But we’re not becoming a friendly place to travel. In fact we’re largely becoming worse.

The U.S. Visa Waiver Program actually requires asking for advance permission to come, which means it is basically a visa non-waiver program. Fortunately for people eligible to use this program they do not have to go through the full process, or an in-person interview.

However for those who do need a visa the average wait times are mind bogglingly absurd. The wait time in Mexico City? Over 500 days.

To be sure there are different wait times for different visas. For instance student visas are going to jump the queue, so U.S. universities (which have faced declining enrollment because of the pandemic and distance learning and because of pandemic travel restrictions) aren’t largely missing out on students due to visa processing wait times.

And U.S. ESTA rules, which allow requesting permission to travel to the U.S. electronically, were narrowed late in the Trump administration so that previous visits to places like Iran are disqualifying. That means more people have to apply for visas than before.

But solving this should be a priority for the U.S. There’s no reason for many people from many countries to have to present themselves in person, and people who are already here shouldn’t be required to leave to renew their visas.

The U.S. by the way is also a terrible place to connect traveling from one country to another since you’re required to go through immigration and customers and have permission to enter the U.S. just to transit. But that’s something of a harder fix, though the federal government should give the go-ahead for secure transfer and allow airports to invest in making this possible too.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Of course one could enter the U.S. thru the illegal hole that is the southern border as millions have done since brain dead Biden Administration refuses to enforce the Constitution.

  2. Doing away with these counterproductive policies would require the State Department to do away with some of the cushiest jobs in the world, where unskilled bureaucrats can live abroad in exotic locations and live a quality of life these people could never imagine having in the DC suburbs — complete with household servants and fancy private schools — completely at the expense of the US taxpayer. Look for these interview to go away exactly never, regardless of how much harm it inflicts on the United States or the people trying to enter it. This system benefits the people who work for the United States government, and that’s its only reason for being.

  3. Even those who qualify for interview waivers have a many month long wait to simply submit their documents. My parents both qualify for the visa interview waivers having held US visas continuously since 1964, but the first appointment date to simply drop off their paperwork for renewal is in June 2023.

    As for students jumping the queues, some posts also have 2 year waits for student visa applicants. For example, the wait time for a student visa appointment in Accra as of today is 702 days. Therefore, students who are entering their junior year of high school are urged to submit their student visa applications already so as to ensure enough time to process them before their freshman year of college.

  4. Just fly into Juarez Mexico and walk across the border into El Paso, with no papers. The brain-dead idiot in the white house will give you welfare cash, free house, free food, no questions asked.

  5. As an American living in Mexico my fiancée (Mexican National with a visa) and I have been through the horror of attempting to transit, would have missed out connection to France if not for a kind LAX employee helping us, the wait was truly 3 hours long BEFORE, you gathered luggage, dropped it off and then went into line to get back into the terminal we were forced to leave! When we landed in France we cleared immigration, transited and were on our way to Italy. This is the worst waste of time I have ever experienced. FYI we had 4 hours between flights so we were not pushing it at LA.

  6. I was talking to one person in the Caribbean who told me that she had to go to another country in the region just to reach someone on an island with the facilities to do the interview. Then she will have to go home and wait a year to see if she is approved to visit her daughter.

    But what worries me is that eventually a lot of countries could say the heck with us, and make it as miserable to visit them as we are in not welcoming guests. And transit areas used to exist–what in the world happened here?

    These are just parts of the completely screwed visiting/immigration picture. For example, as I may have mentioned before, ten years ago a friend married an upper class Dominican woman, with an MBA from an American university, and another from a Spanish one, plus an excellent job in Santo Domingo. For two years he fought with the State Department to “prove” that she didn’t do this just to slip in. Washington lost all his paperwork…then lied that it was still being reviewed. After starting over and getting stonewalled again he gave up and moved there to open his business. At least their kids have dual citizenship. So America lost two excellent people for nothing.

  7. @heckfarr the amount of open jobs this country has says otherwise. Skilled and unskilled labor demand is at an all time high and we don’t have enough of a population to work these jobs. Sounds like we should be letting those people in and increasing the hiring at the State department to process that faster.

  8. Tim—- Wrong, we have enough of a population, what we don’t have is people who want to work and would rather live off of the government from the ever increasing tax dollars that real workers generate.

  9. “(the World Health Organization said there was no evidence the Sinovac vaccine reduced infection or transmission – at all).”

    Gee, just like Pfizer and Moderna. Go figure.

  10. “Stupid COVID policies”? Awwww, Dr. Leff is back. Stick to shilling, Leffy. You don’t know jack about COVID, and never did.

  11. By reading the comments it tells me the US is full of hateful people. I prefer to spend my time around people with good attitudes. This was lost back when Trump was elected.

  12. Worth noting too that there are not only lines to get into the United States but also lines to leave. Those wishing to give up US nationality must also schedule an interview and pay a large filing fee together with a massive Soviet style exit tax. But the waiting list for these interviews stretches from many months to 2 years, and people are stuck with US nationality involuntarily.

    We need open borders, and in both directions.

  13. This country isn’t helping U.S. citizens traveling for business purposes either.

    APEC ABTC cards are visa replacement cards for travel in the Pacific APEC region.

    Unless one has a U.S. or Canadian issued card, which only gives one front of the line privileges at foreign immigration queues.

  14. @Ray: Just demonstrated that you one of those hateful people you claim to despise. TDS much?

    Biden is coming up on two years in office. This is on HIM.

  15. The border is open for anyone to enter…..as millions have done so in the last few years under this administration. Why bother with a visa? Just come on over whenever you want. Why some people say this is “hate speech” is laughable. The truth and facts though are fasle narratives when inconvenient to the policies of certain political parties.

  16. Odd that the phrases “President Biden” and “Biden Administration” appear nowhere in this article. The problems cited here are either (1) Not important to the Biden Administration, or (2) Beyond their level of competence to fix. But hey, free student loans!

  17. Those who yell about securing borders should be happy that it is harder to get a visa and should want more visa interviews. People who overstay their visa account for far more illegal immigrants than people who cross the southern border. An interview is the single best way to try to weed out those who are at the highest risk of overstaying and even an interview is no guarantee that overstayers will be weeded out.

    Her is one of many articles about how overstaying visas is the biggest cause of illegal immigration.


    By the way, Australia can also be a lousy country to transit through. If the layover is more than 8 hours, the Aussies require a visa even if you never leave the airport.

  18. @1KBrad

    ” Just demonstrated that you one of those hateful people you claim to despise.”

    This blog is frequented by some very messed up people: if the USA were judged upon those posters, one would conclude that Americans are racist, incite hatred, are vindictive towards various groups including women and the LGBT community, are scientifically illiterate and denialist, utterly selfish people and incapable of independent rational thought, not to mention staggering ignorant about other countries and cultures and totally insular in outlook and prone to a fearful existence.

    In other words the country if full of dumb Americans.

    I know this not to be true. But the conclusion would be inevitable based on the comments submitted…

  19. Really? Mexicans 500 days? I don’t think so. I came through IAH this Monday past from Europe, I am on ESTA, the Immigration hall had about 2,000 people in lines. I think maybe 1,800 of them were from Mexico. Oh, I forgot to mention after flying from Dubai via FRA to IAH I had the joy of 3 hours lined up in the US inImmigration queues. I guess this is life in Biden’s America.

  20. @So correct, Platy, at least on this one. The U.S. is one of the least friendly countries for tourists to visit, and contrary to what many of the posters think, lots of visitors have money, want to spend it here seeing the real United States, and would create jobs here if we didn’t make it so hard for them to get in as tourists. This is on all recent and current administrations if you have to assign blame.

    Gary, is the main problem in creating a better transit at U.S. airports the fact that most airports here don’t have dedicated terminals or concourses only for international flights, so that it would be impossible to keep transit passengers separate from domestic? Connecting in the U.S. is seriously a terrible idea for anyone with a choice. If you’re connecting at Addis Ababa, allow 15 minutes. If you’re connecting at L.A., allow four hours.

  21. @ john

    “By the way, Australia can also be a lousy country to transit through. If the layover is more than 8 hours, the Aussies require a visa even if you never leave the airport.”

    FWIW the departures areas of some of the main Australian international airports are not accessible overnight – folk shouldn’t expect to overnight international airside, rather need to enter the country.

    Those who do apply for a 8-72 hour transit visa are required to sign /accept the “Australian Values Statement”, which includes the following:

    “a ‘fair go’ for all that embraces:
    – mutual respect;
    – tolerance;
    – compassion for those in need;
    – equality of opportunity for all”

    Many posters herein would fail to meet such a requirement, because they exhibit a lack of such values in their commentary.

  22. @ DaveS

    Luckily, I have Global Entry to take the sting out of the US immigration arrivals queues (and shortly my wife will have also thanks to a long-awaited upcoming interview).

    Be well…;)

  23. @platy, It was an international to international connecting flight on Qantas. I arrived at SYD in the morning and enjoyed the scheduled 8 hour and 10 minute layover with my useless Australian visa in the super Qantas First Class lounge. I don’t remember all of the procedure’s on arrival, but if the layover was scheduled for 11 fewer minutes, there would have been no visa required. Seemed weird.

  24. @ john

    Yeah – I didn’t know about the 8 hour rule before…frustrating stuff indeed…I do hope the QF First Lounge was some compensation.

    I left it too late to get a NZ visa for my wife once – we went from an upmarket Bora Bora resort to sleeping on a bench in AKL until the NZ lounge opened at 4.30am on a long transit. The Australian immigration had us marked because there was no record of our exit from NZ and started the full search / interrogation until I explained the issue and they waved us on!

    UK visitor visa processing now estimated at 7 weeks, which limits our options for our upcoming Europe trip just when QF has released premium award space LHR-SYD…mad world…..;)

  25. Citing questionable studies by well known partisan organizations on the numbers of illegal border crossings versus the number of people overstaying their visas doesn’t provide strong, objective information. And if you were to accept their statements at face value, it clearly shows we have an illegal immigration policy on at least two fronts. It doesn’t mitigate the problems of illegals walking in from Mexico. Apparently we have either weak or no border controls.

  26. @platy, Definitely Global Entry is a must for Americans who travel internationally, and now that it’s time to renew mine I see how impossible it is to schedule an interview, perhaps because of the same underlying lack of commitment to address the problems in the system. Luckily quite a few airports offer non-scheduled interviews on a walk in basis for returning passengers, so I should be able to renew that way. But GE is no help for a European wanting to go to South America or a South American wanting to go to Asia. Definitely they should avoid connecting through a U.S. airport if at all possible.

  27. F and H visas can do dropbox without in-person interview now.

    All the countries on that LIST have terrible records of overstaying. Guess where are those countries!

    He doesn’t understand the system and just lie to get attention.

  28. Meanwhile you can simply walk or run across the southern border and all your needs will be taken care of. No Visa required. But I guess that is ok with the majority who voted for Biden and the so called Progressives. Funny how most other countries I have visited consider border security a priority! Not in the US

  29. Yes Platy the US is full of nasty mean people who simply don’t go along with your liberal social norms and policies. So sad that not everyone loves your Woke culture. Maybe time for you to move to Canada. They will welcome you with open arms

  30. @ CMorgan

    Your posts ooze hatred, buddy. Your problem is your hatred then clouds your judgement. It makes you very easily manipulated by the political narrative, and that, in turn, is one of the things that makes you dumb.

    Another example of your stupidity is that you think that if you can put a label on somebody else (in this case “woke, whatever that means) that your position is empowered, whereas, in reality it just exposes that you have bought uncritically into the political narrative to which you attach.

    Certain political strategies feed your unthinking brain knowing full well you are an easy target for dog whistle politics, and emotional reactions centred on your dissatisfaction and cranial incapacity. They give you somebody or something to hate and you lap it up.

    In this case, you (and others on this blog) rant against people “walking across the border” and utterly fail to grasp that the predominant source of “illegal immigration” in the US (as various other countries) is that cohort of people who have entered on visitor or business visas and overstayed their visa.

    Therefore the government of the day granted them a visa in the first place.

    But then your American system is utterly hopeless a recording whether people on these visa actually left the country or not.

    In other countries there is generally an exiting passport control for international flights. The respective governments know who arrived legally and know who left legally. It is then up to that government to chase down the overstayers – they know who they are.

    Your system is one big bloody mess, not just in terms of tracking illegal immigration, but also the archaic and unsophisticated process of having to clear US immigration even if travellers are in transit and the woefully long queues upon arrival and the long process of securing a visa in he first place. Any values if freedom and fair play are jettisoned when travellers from many countries apply for their visa waiver which forces them to forego their legal rights upon entry to challenge decisions made by the immigration officers.

    All of the above have occurred over successive US administrations’, both Democrat and Republican. The issue is political to the extent that the Donald Duckling made a great fuss over “illegal immigrants” walking the border knowing that some folk, just like you, would be triggered. The addition of the racist dog whistle (e.g. all Mexicans are bad people) makes the scam particularly insidious.

    Whereas there has been some downward trend in “illegal immigration” generally (see the reference I cited above), the issue is one that administrations of both political sides have both succeeded (to some extent) and failed to address.

    We have watched the right wing in Australia play the same vile game – focus on one group (in the Australian case, asylum seekers who arrive by boat), demonise them (e.g. claim they do things like throw their children not the ocean, when they don’t), whilst ignoring the real issue, the visa overstayers (who outnumber the asylum seeks easily 30 to 1).

    If “woke” means being conscious and awake enough to seek out the data and the real issues buried beneath the political narrative, then celebrate being woke – what’s your problem, mate?!

  31. @Ken, The fact is that overstaying visas is the biggest cause of illegal immigration. Building a multibillion dollar wall that Trump promised Mexico would pay for won’t address the visa problem. A wall is even questionable as to the effectiveness to prevent border crossings. Visa overstays can be addressed more easily and cheaply than building and maintaining a wall that makes the U.S. look ridiculous.

    Concentrating solely on the southern border shows that illegal immigration is merely a pretext and not the real reason behind the fixation with building a wall. Racist replacement theory is the MAGA principle that comes to mind.

    Since many only believe what Fox cares to tell them:


  32. John – First thought that came to mind when reading your post is that you are one dumbass. Border crossings were under control and the wall was doing the job it was built for during President Trump’s tenure. Keep watching CNN and MSNBC – it is obvious that you are too ignorant to comprehend the truth.

  33. I live in Georgia and my wife is Georgian. We would like to be able to visit the US but her wait for a visa interview would be about 2 years. By then her mother-in-law will most likely have passed on, given she is 94 now. We don’t want to immigrate/return, we don’t want to stay. We don’t need a green card. We just want to visit so we can see family and so she can visit the US which she would like very much to do. We are established in Georgia and I am a permanent resident here (which is much easier here than in the US).

    In April there were reports that the people who did have interviews and had been waiting would be rescheduled. The excuse was covid, which nobody else here was worrying about at all.

    It’s especially sad that we could walk across the Rio Grande with no formality at all. Not that either of us will ever do that. We’ll just pass on visiting at all I guess.

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