News Update: Financial Sequester Causes Delays at the Consulates, Airports and the Border

As part of the Federal government’s effort to force more than $1 trillion in spending cuts

As part of the Federal government’s effort to force more than $1 trillion in spending cuts over the next 10 years, the sequestration law would require $85 billion in reductions for 2013. This $85 billion sequester affects the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Transportation Security, Maritime security and Disaster Relief Efforts, among others, at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

In our opinion, the biggest impact of the sequestration for our subscribers may be felt at the U.S. Embassy/Consulate’s abroad and at the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) at the Port of Entry (POE).

At the consular level the sequestration may have a direct impact in the processing of visa applications at the consulate as the Department of State has stated that they may likely reduce the number of officers processing visa applications. This coupled with the usual summer delays at the consulate may be expected to negatively impact the wait times at U.S. Consulates abroad. The delays may be two-fold, scheduling and processing delays. Applicants may find scheduling backlogs of weeks or possibly even months. With visa processing following a successful interview, consulates that currently process the visa stamping within one business day may see the same process taking several days and other consulates may take over a week to process their visa stamps. Please ensure that prospective visa applicants schedule their visa appointments as early as possible to avoid being stuck abroad for extended periods.

At the POE, whether an individual arrives by land, sea or air, they can expect to face delays as the CBP anticipates furloughing all its full-time employees for up to 14 working days between April 21st and September 30th. This translates to longer lines at immigration and even longer waits for those individuals requiring secondary inspection (entry using either a re-entry permit or advance parole).

The financial sequester may also negatively affect the wait times at the airports for departing flights. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) cut its frontline workforce of nearly 50,000 officers for seven workdays and is in a hiring freeze. As a result, passenger wait times at airport security checkpoints may be longer, adding to passenger flight and cargo delays. These wait times at TSA checkpoints are expected to increase to as long as four hours.

Keeping the aforementioned delays in mind we recommend our readers carefully plan their visa appointments, trips to and from the airports/border crossings to mitigate avoidable delays.