New US ambassador promises to accelerate the visa application process

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The United States Embassy in Nairobi has committed to accelerating the visa application process by reducing the long wait times endured by Kenyans seeking the document that has resulted in backlogs.

This follows complaints by Kenyans over the long wait times and the non-refundable charges for the application process.

The new US Ambassador to Kenya, Margaret Whitman, admitted that the unnecessary backlog situation is unacceptable, and promised to do everything possible to expedite the application process.

Ms Whitman said she is aware of the hectic visa application process Kenyans have to go through and promised to fix the situation as a priority.

This, she said, is through finding ways of accelerating the Visa application process so that Kenyans do not labour to get the document.

“I am aware of the very long visa wait times that Kenyans are experiencing to get the document to the US. The situation is unacceptable and we need to fix it,” said Ms Whitman.

“We welcome Kenyan visitors and we celebrate our strong people-to-people ties, which is not helping that at the moment. This is one of my top priorities and I will be working very closely with the Consular staff here as well as the entire Embassy to see how we can address this issue as fast as possible,” she added.

Last month, the Embassy announced changes to its Visa application process introducing three features aimed at expediting the application process while keeping applicants in the loop the entire time.

Part of the changes saw individuals applying for visas being able to see interview wait times until their next appointment after the embassy updated its website to reflect the same.

Further, the site will also clearly show the type of fees that are non-refundable to allow Kenyans to make informed decisions before submitting their application and paying the associated fees.

The US Embassy also instituted a visa renewal process that does not require in-person interviews of applicants with the change applying to Kenyans renewing visitor (B1/B2 category) or student visas (F category) whose visas expired less than one year ago.

In yet another change, the embassy introduced expedited appointments for emergency situations, including the death of an immediate family member, the need to travel for urgent medical care, and for students whose programmes start in less than 30 days and who will suffer irreparable harm, such as the loss of a scholarship, if they cannot travel.

Initially, applicants had to wait for more than a year since available dates for a visitor visa appointment in Nairobi were set for June 2024.

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