US Promises to Speed Up Spousal Visa Applications for Kenyans

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Meg Whitman, the U.S. Ambassador to Kenya, has provided reassurance to Kenyans facing prolonged wait times for spousal visas, affirming that the U.S. government is actively addressing the delays that have persisted for years.

Speaking during an interview on Spice FM on Wednesday, May 15, Whitman expressed confidence that the government is in the process of streamlining the application process to facilitate easier access, with anticipated improvements by the end of the year.

Acknowledging the frustrations experienced by visa applicants, Whitman stated, “There are good resolutions coming up by the end of the year.”

She attributed the challenges primarily to processing delays, clarifying that it’s not reflective of the applicants themselves, but rather a consequence of ongoing staffing shortages across consular offices worldwide, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

At present, the waiting period for CR1 visas stands at 13.5–15 months for spouses of U.S. citizens and 29–40 months for spouses of green card holders. In April this year, it emerged Kenya ranks third on US visa denials.

A photo of US Ambassador Meg Whitman following President William Ruto’s speech at Silicon Valley in San Francisco on September 15, 2023.


Whitman affirmed her commitment to spearheading efforts to reduce these extensive wait times, acknowledging the hardship endured by separated families. “We have made good progress on it but not enough,” she remarked, urging patience as the U.S. Embassy in Kenya works to streamline the process.

Addressing concerns regarding visa fees, Whitman defended the cost, citing the necessity of a rigorous verification process.

She emphasized the imperative of stringent security measures, stating, “And you are very aware of the cost of being wrong like letting in the 9-11 hijackers.”

Last year, the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi implemented changes to interview requirements for various visa categories, aiming to alleviate COVID-related backlogs for non-immigrant applicants.

Notably, the embassy expanded the interview waiver programme for certain visa categories, including tourist/business (B1/B2), student (F, J, M), or crew (C1/D) visas, for eligible applicants seeking renewals without an in-person appointment.

However, the prolonged waiting times have affected Kenyans, particularly those applying for B1/B2 visas for business or pleasure, who do not have a previous permit eligible for renewal. Exceptions are made for emergency travel needs, such as urgent medical attention or the loss of an immediate relative.

Kenyans seeking student visas already enjoy a policy shift from the U.S. State Department, that simplified visa application processes, eliminating the requirement for interviews and extending the application timeframe from 120 days to a year.

Ambassador Whitman affirmed ongoing efforts to reduce wait times for all visa categories, noting progress made while acknowledging the distance yet to go. “I think we are making good progress. Is it where we want to be, no, but we are making good progress,” she stated.

A photo of US President Joe Biden (left) and President William Ruto (right)


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