According to the embassy, it is currently impossible to estimate when the waiting times for interviews related to the guest visa application process will return to normal and at what pace congestion will be lifted.
Dozens exchange studies for Finnish high school students are threatened with cancellation due to application congestion at the US Embassy.
For example, through the exchange student organization Youth For Understanfing (YFU), 40 young people are leaving for the United States as exchange students.
The first ones are scheduled to leave as early as July and most of August.
It is not possible to travel to the United States without a visa, so there is a risk that not all students will be able to start their school year on time due to congestion – or even during the fall semester.
The embassy has reported that personal interviews, especially in the guest visa application process, have been severely congested due to the corona pandemic.
Interview queuing times have been stretched so much that there are currently no free interview times for this year.
YFU Executive Director Riikka Seppälä according to the majority, students leaving through YFU have not yet been given interview time.
It is impossible to estimate when waiting times will return to normal and at what pace congestion will finally be lifted, Head of the Embassy’s Press Department William Couch tells by email.
At YFU there is great concern about the situation and its uncertainty.
“We have solved all the problems related to coronation vaccinations, housing and other practical issues, so it would be pretty awful if everything ended up falling into the visa issue,” Seppälä says.
Seppälä doubts that many will cancel their trip completely if a visa is not issued before the beginning of the school year.
“Participating at the beginning of the school year is extremely important for exchange students, because then they meet new friends and choose hobby clubs that are very closely related to schooling in the United States,” says Seppälä.
The United States the embassy is well aware that the situation is frustrating for many visa holders.
According to Couch, however, the embassy must process applications in a certain order.
First on the priority list are services for U.S. citizens and second on immigrant visa applications. Only then can student guest visas be processed.
According to Couch, the situation is difficult in many ways.
“We work as hard as we can, but the number of staff is very limited. In addition, queuing times are affected by corona-related security measures, such as keeping safety clearances on the delegation’s premises, ”says Coach.
YFU Riikka Seppälä says that the situation is also difficult for the organisation’s finances.
“This is a very challenging year for exchange student organizations. Then we would have to seriously consider the continuity of activities, if these 40 students would not be able to leave at all this year, ”says Seppälä.
Seppälä says that he is also sad for those high school students who now have to live in insecurity.
“Young people have already gotten to know their host families through video calls and many have dreamed of leaving as exchange students for years. This is a really big thing in their lives, ”says Seppälä.