Visa appointment slots at the United States Embassy in Nairobi are fully booked until August, highlighting the persistent backlog resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020.

Prospective applicants seeking non-immigrant visas for purposes such as attending conferences or visiting the US between February and July may encounter challenges, as available interview dates extend beyond their intended travel periods.

The embassy does provide an option for expediting appointments in cases of emergencies, particularly those related to health issues, the death of a relative or for students who have secured admission to US universities and are at risk of missing their scholarships.

A screenshot of US visa appointment section. Image:BDA.
A screenshot of US visa appointment section. Image:BDA.

However, for the majority of applicants, the backlog poses a significant hurdle, potentially disrupting travel plans.

In response to the exceptional circumstances caused by the pandemic, the American embassy instituted a waiver for interview requirements in 2022, allowing individuals with expired American visas to apply online instead of attending a physical interview.

This measure aimed to alleviate the considerable backlog resulting from the Covid-19 outbreak in 2020.

Non-immigrant visa interviews at the Nairobi office had been suspended for over a year in 2020 as a precautionary measure against the spread of Covid-19.

To streamline the process, the embassy extended the interview waiver programme for renewals in various categories, including tourist/business (B1/B2), student (F, J, M), or crew visas (C1/D).

Eligible applicants must be renewing the same visa category, and their existing permits should not have expired more than a year ago.

Normally, individuals planning to attend the interviews are required to select the next available date on the embassy website for a physical interview, where the fate of their visa application will be determined.

The waiting period is notably prolonged compared to pre-pandemic times when applicants could secure interview appointments within a fortnight of applying for the visa.

The extended delays underscore the ongoing challenges faced by the US embassy in Nairobi as it grapples with the repercussions of the Covid-19 pandemic on visa processing.