On January 2, 2024, the Department of State (DOS) announced a “bright forecast” for worldwide visa operations. DOS said its visa processing capacity “has recovered faster than projected. We issued more nonimmigrant visas (NIVs) worldwide in 2023 than in any year since 2015.” 

DOS said it remains focused on “reducing wait times for visitor visa applicants who require an in-person interview, particularly in countries where demand remains at unprecedented levels.” Its goal is for more than 90 percent of its overseas posts to have visitor visa interview wait times under 90 days in 2024.

DOS noted that its 230 U.S. embassies and consulates issued more than 10.4 million visas globally in fiscal year 2023. The agency attributed its progress in part to improved efficiency through interview waivers in several key visa categories, including for many students and temporary workers. Additionally, DOS said, applicants renewing nonimmigrant visas in the same classification within 48 months of the prior visa’s expiration date can apply without an in-person interview in their countries of nationality or residence. “This continues to be one of our best tools to reduce interview appointment wait times while continuing to make rigorous national security decisions in every case,” DOS said. 

In 2023, DOS said, it (1) prioritized student and academic exchange visitor visa interviews to facilitate study at U.S. universities and colleges; (2) processed seasonal agricultural and nonagricultural worker visas, issuing a “record-breaking 442,000 visas to H-2A and H-2B temporary workers in 2023, with nearly 90 percent going to qualified workers from Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras”; (3) issued a “record-breaking 365,000 nonimmigrant visas to airline and shipping crewmembers”; and (4) issued 590,000 nonimmigrant and immigrant visas, “the most ever,” to high-skilled workers and executives in a range of sectors, including emerging technology and health care. “Among those, we issued nearly double the number of EB-3 [green cards] in FY 2023 than in FY 2019, the last full year before the pandemic.” DOS also issued all the available diversity green card lottery visas during the DV-2023 program year.

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