Disgruntled residents call for speedier US visit visas
DUBAI // American authorities should make it easier to make an appointment at their missions to obtain a visit visa, say frustrated residents.
Applicants complained yesterday of long waiting times to schedule appointments for American visit visas, a year after the US consulate moved to a bigger facility in Bur Dubai that was supposed to make the process smoother.
For a visit visa, applicants must fill an extensive online application and receive confirmation. They must then book an appointment online to schedule an interview at the consulate in Dubai or embassy in Abu Dhabi.
After the interview, if approved, the passport with the US visa is couriered within three days.
In theory it sounds simple, but in practice, for some it has proved a nightmare.
“After submitting the online application, I kept logging into the US consulate’s website to get appointment dates,” said Krishna, a Dubai resident who did not wish to reveal her second name. “The system showed that all appointments were full for the next few months. I kept checking and finally at the end of April, I found dates available in July.”
Krishna said she had even written to the consulate, but they asked her to keep checking their appointment system.
“Even when the dates open, they are usually gone in ten minutes as everyone is waiting to book an appointment,” she said.
In August of last year, the US consulate moved to its new location from its previous offices at the World Trade Centre. The new facility, built at a cost US$126 million (Dh460m), promised to improve consular services and meet increasing visa demand. More than 63,000 temporary visa applications were processed by the two missions last year.
However, authorities conceded there were usually more applicants than interview slots.
“The US embassy and US consulate general are working to increase our capacity through a number of measures including increased staffing,” said Christine Harold Aluyen, US Consul General and Country Consular Coordinator. “However, there continues to be more applicants than available interview slots during peak travel times, including this summer...the number of applicants interviewed in Dubai has increased, though the long-term benefits of the greatly improved consular facility have not yet been fully realised.”
She said many residents from Dubai and the Northern Emirates had sought appointments in Abu Dhabi, as they were not aware of the new facility in Dubai.
“This also has the effect of reducing the number of appointments available in Abu Dhabi,” she said.
Another resident said his family had to change travel plans after they had to wait for nearly two months to get an appointment.
“We wanted to be in the US on the fourth of July,” said a resident who spoke on condition of anonymity. “We had to push our vacation because we couldn’t get an appointment. After we submitted our online application in May, we got our confirmation.
Once we started looking for dates, it was full for the next one and a half months.”
After looking for appointment dates - sometimes as late as midnight - his family was able to schedule one for the end of June.
“We should be able to get an appointment as soon as we get a confirmation,” he said.
A visa consultant said appointments are available three weeks after receiving confirmation.
“In some countries, we get the visas in two to three weeks,” said Ahmed Amer, a consultant with Global Visas. “Appointment times should be faster.”
Published: July 11, 2012 04:00 AM