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The Editors

Coming to the US Shouldn’t Be This Hard

The average wait time for a tourist visa to visit the US is nearly eight months. The State Department needs to do better.

Getting biometrics is easier now. 

Getting biometrics is easier now. 

Photographer: Joerg Koch/DDP/AFP/Getty Images

A Colombian family hoping to visit Disney World right now might have to wait more than two years to get their visas. The same goes for a Nigerian investor looking to close a funding round in Silicon Valley. Around the world, delays in visa processing are preventing scores of foreigners from coming to the US — hurting the economy, sapping investment and undermining America’s image. Fixing the problem demands a more forceful and creative response than the US government has mustered thus far.

While processing times vary greatly from consulate to consulate, the average wait for an appointment to obtain a US visitor visa is nearly 240 days — roughly eight months. Unsurprisingly, the pandemic is partly to blame: Two years of Covid-19 restrictions led to staff attrition and limited services at US consulates around the world. The State Department says it has made progress in clearing the backlog, with the number of visas issued monthly approaching pre-pandemic levels. Yet the government still isn’t anywhere close to keeping up with demand.