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US Vows Expedited Spousal Visas for Kenyans

US Vows Expedited Spousal Visas for Kenyans

Meg Whitman, the U.S. Ambassador to Kenya, has offered reassurance to Kenyans grappling with prolonged wait times for spousal visas, assuring them that the U.S. government is actively tackling the delays that have persisted over the years.

In an interview on Spice FM on Wednesday, May 15, Whitman conveyed optimism that the government is currently streamlining the application process to make access easier, with anticipated improvements expected by the year’s end.

Recognizing the frustrations faced by visa applicants, Whitman remarked, “Good resolutions are coming up by the end of the year.”

She attributed the challenges primarily to processing delays, clarifying that they do not reflect on the applicants themselves but are rather a consequence of ongoing staffing shortages across consular offices worldwide, compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Currently, the waiting period for CR1 visas is between 13.5 and 15 months for spouses of U.S. citizens and between 29 and 40 months for spouses of green card holders. It was revealed in April this year that Kenya ranks third in US visa denials.

Whitman reiterated her dedication to leading efforts to decrease these lengthy wait times, acknowledging the hardships endured by separated families. “We have made good progress on it but not enough,” she noted, urging patience as the U.S. Embassy in Kenya endeavors to streamline the process.

Regarding concerns about visa fees, Whitman defended the cost, citing the necessity of a thorough verification process.


She stressed the importance of rigorous 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 introduced changes to interview requirements for various visa categories, aiming to alleviate COVID-related backlogs for non-immigrant applicants.

Significantly, the embassy expanded the interview waiver program 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 impacted Kenyans, especially those applying for B1/B2 visas for business or pleasure without 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 benefit from a policy shift from the U.S. State Department, which simplified visa application processes, eliminating the interview requirement 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 emphasized.

US Vows Expedited Spousal Visas for Kenyans