More than 1,100 visa applicants crowded the US Consulate which reopened on Tuesday amid high security.
The Consulate was shut over a week ago following an attack by hundreds of angry anti-US protestors.
As the Consulate handles about 1,000 appointments everyday, it was not difficult managing the crowd on Tuesday, said a Consulate spokesperson. “We are equipped with an electronic queuing system that enables us to detect any special needs of an applicant which will speed up the process. We encourage them to come just 15 minutes ahead of their appointment,” he said.
Depending on the immediacy of travel, the appointments are rescheduled by the Consulate, he added. “If someone has to travel right away then we put them on the high priority list. Otherwise, in cases where the date of journey is far off, the appointments are given for a later date,” he said.
Since the Consulate was shut last week, some of the important immediate business travel appointments were transferred to other consulates. An applicant can also go to the Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad and Kolkata consulates if the travel was urgent, he added.
New system announced
It has also announced a new system which will enable applicants to schedule appointments online at www.ustraveldocs.com/in or by phone from September 26.
According to a release issued by the Consulate, the new system accommodates scheduling of group and emergency appointments as well. Also, applicants can pay the required fees via Electronic Fund Transfer (EFT) or through mobile phones.
Another important change is that first-time applicants will have to make two appointments. Prior to their interviews, applicants have to visit an Offsite Facilitation Center (OFC) to submit their fingerprints and a photo. The OFC will be applicable in Delhi, Chennai, Hyderabad, Kolkata and Mumbai. The OFCs will be located at a different venue in the city and not on consulate premises. In Chennai, the OFC will be located at Cenotaph Road.
“The purpose behind opening the OFCs is to reduce congestion at US consular facilities and expedite the processing of applicants. We are working with the government and if it is deemed feasible we may open OFCs in other cities too,” the spokesperson said.