Sean Murphy, Charge d’Affaires at the US Embassy in Abu Dhabi
Sean Murphy, Charge d’Affaires at the US Embassy in Abu Dhabi, advises UAE residents to apply well in advance for the US visa. Image Credit: Anas Thacharpadikkal/Gulf News

Dubai: A top American diplomat in the UAE has urged travellers seeking visas to the US to apply well in advance to avoid delays.

The US missions in the UAE have been making “incremental progress” in expediting visa processing services, Sean Murphy, Charge d’Affaires at the US Embassy in Abu Dhabi told Gulf News on Thursday night.

Speaking on the sidelines of the Independence Day reception hosted by the US missions in Dubai on Thursday, he said: “We’re making progress, incremental progress, [however] it’s gonna take some time still. So the most important thing for people to know is that you need to plan ahead.”

The US missions here had taken measures including hiring additional employees for visa services to meet the inordinate delays in visa processing post the lifting of COVID-19 travel restrictions.

Yet, as per the website of the Bureau of Consular Affairs at the US Department of State, the wait time for nonimmigrant visitor visas from the UAE is now more than one year.

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Long wait

Wait time for interview required visitors for B1 or B2 (business and tourism) visas at the US Embassy in Abu Dhabi now stands at 449 calendar days whereas the same is 455 days at the US Consulate in Dubai.

Murphy pointed out that there has been “tremendous pent-up demand” after travel restrictions were lifted.

“Everybody wants to travel. So there is tremendous pent-up demand. Our consular teams both at the Consulate General in Dubai and at the Embassy in Abu Dhabi are working very, very hard to meet that demand. It’s a challenge and it’s a challenge not only here, but this is really a worldwide phenomenon,” he said.

Priority categories

He clarified that the missions are also prioritising the visa applications from certain categories of travellers to avoid delays.

“We’re doing a lot of work to try to make sure that certain particularly high-profile types of travel are being addressed — people who are going for medical treatment, people who are going to study, people who are going to negotiate and sign important business contracts, creating jobs in the UAE and creating jobs in the United States. We’re trying very hard to keep up with that and within reason to give it priority.”

However, he reiterated that “the most important thing about international travel is always planning ahead and you can’t overestimate right now how far in advance you should plan. So if you think you’re going to want to go to the United States, you really need to apply for your visa now … As soon as they have reasonably firm plans, they should apply,” he added.