New United States Ambassador to Kenya Margret Whitman has promised to expedite the visa application process for Kenyans following numerous complaints on social media.
In her first media address since she arrived in the country on Monday to officially begin her duty, Whitman said she is aware of the delays in visa appointments and processing, promising to come up with a solution.
“I am aware of the very long waiting times that Kenyans experience when applying for VISAs to the US. The situation is unacceptable. We need to find ways to expedite those VISA applications. I promise you that we will find ways to accelerate the process. That will be one of my top priorities,” Whitman told journalists on Sunday.
“The Embassy will see through this as soon as possible.”
Last month, the US embassy announced that the first available dates for a visitor visa appointment in Nairobi are in June 2024, terming the delays as a worldwide problem caused by a backlog resulting from the Covid-19 health and safety measures.
"Due to COVID-19 health and safety measures, nonimmigrant Visa interviews at U.S. Embassy Nairobi ceased for over a year. The Embassy restarted interviews at full capacity in February 2022. This is a worldwide problem that U.S. embassies are diligently striving to address," the embassy said in a statement.
“U.S. Embassy Nairobi recognizes the significant challenges and frustrations this poses for Kenyans planning to visit the United States for business and tourism.”
The embassy indicated that since resuming operations, it has doubled the number of daily interviews and will continue to add additional staff and increase capacity over time.
“As we work through the backlog of applications and address the high demand for services, we recognize that some applicants may face extended visa interview wait times…The U.S. Embassy will continue to take all possible steps to reducing visa interview wait times as quickly as possible,” it added.
The embassy also highlighted some of the measures it has put in place to address the current delays, including instituting a Visa renewal process that will not require an in-person interview for certain applicants.
"Kenyans renewing visitor (B1/B2 category) or student Visas (F category) whose visas expired less than one year ago may be eligible to renew without an interview," read the statement.
Expedited appointments will be made for emergency situations such as "the death of an immediate family member, the need to travel for urgent medical care, and students whose program begins in less than 30 days and who will suffer irreparable harm."