Getting a US student visa appointment in India is a messy and uncertain process.
US embassies did not process visa requests for months due to Covid-19, leading to major issues with timelines. For instance, a 25-year-old Delhi resident, who wished to stay anonymous, told Quartz she got a visa appointment in February 2022 for a course starting in August 2021.
Although slots are being made available now, it may be too little, too late for such a herculean task. Nearly 200,000 Indian students choose the US as their study abroad destination each year.
On June 14, US authorities finally started opening up slots, with the fall semester just a couple of months away. But it was beset with technical problems. The website could not handle the traffic, and users kept getting kicked out.
People frantically took to Telegram and WhatsApp to discuss their woes and try to figure out solutions.
The US embassy had warned: “Do not refresh too often, as you may be locked out of your account.” But that is exactly what happened to thousands of students.
In some cases, visa hopefuls found ways to game the system. In WhatsApp group chats seen by Quartz, students shared tips like doing a hard refresh every 15 seconds, not closing the tab once logged in, and so on.
The student from Delhi, who is heading to Pittsburgh for a masters in public policy, managed to reschedule her appointment to the second week of July after two days of trying. But not everyone has been so lucky. Scores of her friends, she says, are still failing after spending hours on end trying to navigate the system. Twitter is abuzz with similar complaints of error messages and frozen accounts.
Relying on repeated attempts and dumb luck has been a poor route to success for people in a rush. Many people have secured slots that are after their classes are supposed to start. Others are worried about not having enough time to book flights and quarantine at their destination.
The embassy has assured students that more slots will be opened for July and August, so they must not fret. Meanwhile, the authorities have deterred students from booking emergency appointments, but some are growing restless.