If you live in Johannesburg and are planning to take your family to Disneyland for Christmas, you may be disappointed. The wait for US visas just got a lot longer.
In June the US Mission in South Africa encouraged all SA residents planning a trip to the US to apply for their visa as early as possible, revealing that there is currently a “heavy demand” in South Africa… leading to longer than usual wait times.
The demand is so heavy that one Joburg resident contacted SAPeople to warn fellow travellers that they may not be able to secure a spot before the end of this year!
The resident, whose husband had planned to travel to the US later this year, initially told SAPeople: “If you are trying to obtain a non-immigrant visa for USA (Class B1/B2) via Johannesburg USA Embassy for this year, it is impossible. There are no slots available for this year.
“So if you are planning to take your family to Disneyland for December. You may have to think again.
“My husband recently applied for the renewal of his USA Visa which is expiring in September, for business travel for the end of September. After completing the 45-minute questionnaire he was met with shock and horror that the last space available in Johannesburg for this year was on 26 October 2019.
“The interview is a month after his intended travel.”
Her husband booked the last available date and called the Call Centre.
“They were pleasant and advised him to submit a once-off expedite request… which he duly did. However, the request was rejected. He was told to keep on checking the website on a daily basis for cancellations or book at another centre (Durban or Cape Town).”
Kim Taylor, Customer Experience Director at the Flight Centre Travel Group, told SAPeople they are aware of the scarcity of USA visa appointments, especially in the Johannesburg area.
The advice from Flight Centre is to do as the Joburg resident’s husband has done – confirm the first available appointment and then check daily for an earlier one if it becomes available from cancellations, although unfortunately there are no guarantees.
“Alternatively, appointment dates may be available in Cape Town or Durban in the event a customer is able to travel to these cities,” says Taylor.
Fortunately when the Joburg resident checked on Friday – some dates in September had become available for her husband to get his application in on time.
These are the dates currently available in 2019 (it changes daily), according to the Joburg resident:
Cape Town: 12 +26 November and no other dates after this
Durban: 13+14+25 November and 9 +10+11+12 December
Johannesburg: 18 + 23 +25 September : 2 + 21 October and no other dates after this
Flight Centre says its “consultants are continuously updated on the matter to ensure that our customers are well informed at all times. We urge customers to apply for their USA visa as soon as they possibly can and as early as 3 months prior to departure.
“The embassy has advised that confirmed travel is not a requirement for the visa application. We would recommend that customers are fully aware of any penalties payable to change or cancel their travel plans,” says Taylor.
The US Embassy said in a media release that it “encourages” travellers to not wait until their current visa has expired to apply for a new one.
“If a visa is still valid or has expired within the last 12 months, the traveler may be eligible to renew by mail without an interview,” it said.
More information on applying for a U.S. visa is available through the Embassy website: https://za.usembassy.gov/visas/. Questions regarding the appointment process also may be directed to 087-550-2160.