US visas – more slots online

THE US Embassy has opened additional appointments for visa applications in centres around the country in response to criticism from agents struggling to get timely slots for their clients.

Until very recently, agents could not secure an appointment for this year in Johannesburg. Available times in Cape Town were from October and Durban from November. Now Johannesburg and Durban have availability from October, and Cape Town from September.

“In response to recent elevated appointment demand, Consulate Johannesburg expects to receive additional resources in the near future to assist with lowering the appointment wait time,” says Robert Mearkle, the US Embassy spokesperson in Pretoria.

He says the agents are encouraged to check the appointment system regularly to see if appointments become available. “We are aware of the frustration that these longer than usual waiting times cause. We are trying to process visa applications as quickly as possible,” Robert adds.

Agents have been waiting for cancellations, checking the system on a daily basis, says Brian Kruger, md of 4UK & Worldwide Visas. He is not convinced that the released appointments will alleviate the problem. “These are not guaranteed and the decreased waiting times are still not conducive to business travel, which is often booked with little notice.”

Corporate clients do not want to incur the extra expense and hassle of travelling to Durban or Cape Town for the day for an appointment, he says.