A Kenyan medical doctor has expressed her frustration with the United States embassy in Nairobi over delays in visa appointments.
Elizabeth Amakove Wala wrote an open letter to the incoming American ambassador to Kenya Margaret Whitman highlighting her case after her daughter qualified for a global competition to be held in the US this November.
“In June 2022, one of my daughters qualified to attend the World’s Scholar Cup Global Round in Dubai, a debate and creative writing competition. She attended the competition. She, thereafter, qualified for the grand finale called the Theatre of Champions in Yale, USA, to be held in November 2022,” she wrote.
The World's Scholar Cup (WSC) is an international team academic programme with more than 15,000 students participating from over 65 countries every year.
“When we came back [from Dubai], I immediately embarked on a journey to start the visa process. I needed an invitation letter from Global Scholar Cup, which was sent immediately. I then applied [for US visa] in the system for both of us. The total amount of money for the visa was Sh38,400,” she added.
The medic says she was shocked to learn that the next available slot for an appointment was May 2024 which means her daughter would miss the event if they are to follow this schedule.
“Of what use was this appointment when the event is scheduled for November 2022? the visa fees are only valid for one year. I was told to apply for an expedited appointment, and I did. The response from the embassy was swift: appointment denied.”
“I was told by friends to keep checking the appointment schedule for any opening between 11pm and 6am in the morning; that I could be lucky and get a 2023 date. What kind of life is that?” she posed.
While lamenting that the embassy makes billions of shillings from Kenyans through “these delays in appointments”, Amakove pleaded with the incoming ambassador to address the matter once she assumes office following her approval by the US Senate this week.
“I know my daughter will be disappointed. All I am asking for is a change in the system to get people to pay when they are due for the appointment; to refund the application fee to people like us who give up when given a two-year date. I hope this letter gets to you,” she concluded.
The US Nairobi embassy has attributed the delays in visa appointments and processing to a backlog occasioned by the Covid-19 pandemic.
“We ask for your patience as we are faced with significant backlog of cases resulting from closures due to Covid-19. All applicants should expect delays in most stages of visa processing,” the embassy says in its website.
“…We are working diligently to restore all routine visa operations as quickly as possible…”