Did you know that India sends the 12th highest number of visitors to the United States? While 6.6. lakh Indians visited the U.S. in 2011, the figure is set to go up by 50 per cent by 2016.
Revealing these figures, Alyssa Ayres, Deputy Assistant Secretary, U.S. Consulate-General, speaking here on Thursday at an event organised by the Travel Agents Federation of India (TAFI), said the U.S. was aiming at promoting travel to the country, and changes to the visa processing was among the steps taken.
“Our consulates in India adjudicate nearly 7 lakh visas per year, the third highest total in the world: 97 per cent of visas are processed within 24 hours, and [waiting period] for visa appointments are currently 10 days or less. On the day of their interview, visa applicants can expect an average wait of less than one hour. Over the last six years, the State Department increased consular staffing by more than 60 per cent and invested more than $100 million in updating and expanding consular facilities, opening new consulates in Hyderabad (in 2009) and Mumbai (in 2011),” she explained.
A specific initiative was to increase travel involving meetings, incentives, conventions, and exhibitions (MICE).
“From the glamour of Hollywood to the majestic Niagara Falls to the white sand beaches in Hawaii all the way to the neon dreams of Las Vegas; the United States has something to offer every traveller. We understand that companies may have some uncertainty about selecting the U.S. as a travel destination. The perception that our visa process is unpredictable has caused some companies to select other locations for their MICE travel,” Ms. Ayres said.
U.S. Consul Officer Shiraz Wahaj elaborated on the applicant-friendly visa rules. “There is an interview-waiver programme where someone who wants to renew their visa need not visit the consulate again,” he said. This specially benefits travellers from cities such as Bangalore where there is no consulate.
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