US Visitor Visa Wait Times and Cherry-Picked Data
Be skeptical of writers who use a small number of examples to prove a point that speaks to what you want to hear
An article by Alex Tabarrok has been making the rounds on Twitter. In it, he points to the wait time for a US visitor visa interview wait times for three cities — New Delhi, Mexico City, and Nairobi — to draw broad conclusions about the ease of getting a visa interview for all low and middle-income countries.
At this point, your alarm bells should be going off. The three data points could easily be cherry-picked to prove a point. Luckily, Tabarrok linked to the State Department’s wait time estimates for embassies and consulates. After a small amount of manual scraping, I was able to pull together the wait times for each country in Africa.
With that data, I made a map. Some embassies such as Juba, South Sudan and Maseru, Lesotho report that they are not currently doing visa interviews. The US does not have a consular presence in Somalia and Libya. In both cases, those countries are in gray.
Looking at the data, there is a wide range of wait times for interviews. The longest is in Accra, Ghana at 983 days; the shortest is 3 days in Bujumbura, Burundi. The median wait time is 95 days. A long time, but nowhere near the several years that Tabarrok pointed to.
There seems to be a loose association between the population of a country and the wait time for a visitor visa, but quite a few countries dramatically fall outside of the trend. Nairobi’s quoted nearly 2-year wait time is an outlier compared to the rest of Africa and it bucks the population-based trend.