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Relief for business people, others: US embassy to clear huge visa backlog — Ambassador assures applicants

The United States Embassy in Accra has acknowledged the backlog of visa applications by Ghanaians wanting to enter the states and has given assurance that efforts are underway to clear them.  

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The current wait time for appointments for most visa categories is about 15 months and as a result, the embassy has increased its staff to help reduce the pressure.

“We're working every day. We are working hard to attack the backlog, which is a global phenomenon and not specific to Ghana,” the US Ambassador to Ghana, Virginia Palmer told the Daily Graphic in an interview.

She said the backlog began with the outbreak of COVID-19 which has not really gone. “So it's a worldwide problem and I must say that some places are more acute than Ghana,” she said. 

The assurance comes amidst complaints by business people, potential tourists and students who intend to travel to the states. 

The Ambassador noted that travel to the United States for family, business, or tourism is beneficial for both Ghana and the United States. 

Ms Palmer said when she assumed office, the backlog was two and a half years but “it's down to a little over a year now which is still not good enough. But it's much better. We've added additional staff, we have consular officers who are working so hard and they're breaking records for visa interviews and visa issuance.” 

To back her comments with facts, she said the consulate did over 12,000 student visa interviews last year alone.

Student visas

“I'll give you a couple of examples. We did 12,000 visa interviews last summer for students going to university. Many received expedited appointments so that they didn't miss class. 

And as a result, Ghana is the second highest sender of students to the United States in Sub Saharan Africa and so that's a great thing. That's good for both our countries.” Ms Palmer explained that this was possible because the Consular Section worked tirelessly to do all those interviews. 

“I will also say because of our close ties there are a lot of Ghanaians married to Americans or Ghanaian Americans interested in bringing their families to the United States. 

So those immigrant visas also require a lot of work. But it's kind of a zero sum game where we can't wildly increase the number of non-immigrant visa interviews, so we are simultaneously tackling the backlog with many immigrant visa interviews because there's some work required to reunite American families.”

Applications in thousands

Asked about the total number of appointments requested, Ms Palmer noted that in 2023, nearly three times as many people requested visa appointments as the year before the COVID-19 pandemic.  

She said: “Last year, we processed over 50,000 non-immigrant visas and demand is increasing more this year.  

It's a huge number. And I think people don't appreciate that when they see the delay.

She apologised for the inconvenience, adding that: “I don't want the United States to appear unwelcoming. We want Ghanaian visitors who are coming as tourist or students and then coming back to Ghana to talk about their experiences and the relationship between the two countries.” 

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