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Five Tips for Managing the Holiday Travel – and Visa Application – Season

1 Dec

Planning holiday travel?  You aren’t the only one.  Many temporary workers and students in the United States will travel internationally during the holiday season.  And many will need to apply for new visas before returning to work or school in January.  This annual rush of holiday travelers results in more visa applications at U.S. consular posts at precisely the time consular posts are operating with a reduced staff and shorter hours during the holiday season.

In addition to the U.S. federal holidays observed by the U.S. Department of State and consular posts abroad, U.S. consulates often observe the local holidays in the countries where they are located.  In regions such as the Middle East or Asia, where government holiday schedules may not closely match the United States, this may increase substantially the number of days in which a U.S. consulate is closed during the holiday season.

All of these factors combine to make holiday travel and visa application a challenge.

The good news is that, being annual, the holiday travel season is predictable.  And what we can predict, we can plan.  When planning holiday travel and visa application, follow these tips to reduce the potential for stress and return travel delays.

  1. Complete the Form DS-160 online and schedule visa appointments as soon as possible – making an appointment today is not too soon.
  1. Schedule visa appointments for a day early during an overseas trip in order to allow for the maximum time possible for visa issuance without disrupting return travel schedules.
  1. Whatever the planned travel schedule, maintain some flexibility.  Don’t buy expensive, non-refundable tickets.
  1. Inform managers and HR representatives of planned international travel and visa applications in advance.
  1. Gather all documentation required for a visa appointment before departing the United States.  It’s never fun to coordinate documents from multiple sources across oceans and time zones during a vacation.

Following these five tips will reduce the burden of visa application and the potential for delays.  However, planning cannot overcome every possible hiccup.

Occasionally, applicants are notified that their applications are subject to “additional administrative processing,” which usually means the consular post is likely conducting additional name and background checks to ensure an applicant really isn’t on a watch list despite having a name similar to someone who is.  Applicants encountering such delays should notify their employers and make contingency plans as soon as they are notified.  The additional processing can take from a few days to several weeks, but in most cases it is completed within 2-4 weeks.

Planning ahead can reduce the stress of holiday travel.  Just be sure not to get overly stressed if things don’t go exactly according to plan.  Stay calm, stay in communication with all relevant parties, and try to make the best of inconvenient circumstances.

Wishing you happy holidays and safe travels!