36% more visas processed across India after COVID-19 pandemic: U.S. officials

Efforts are being made to reduce the wait time for non-visitors and students, a U.S. visa official said

Updated - February 22, 2023 10:09 am IST

Published - February 22, 2023 08:26 am IST - Washington

Students waiting in queue for an interview for visa in 2018.

Students waiting in queue for an interview for visa in 2018. | Photo Credit: The Hindu

India is the main priority for the United States, U.S. visa officials said adding that there has been around 36% rise in visa processing across the country after the COVID-19 pandemic.

While addressing a presser organised by Foundation for India and Indian Diaspora Studies on February 21, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Visa Services in the Bureau of Consular Affairs Julie Stufft said, "India is the number one priority that we are facing right now. We are absolutely committed to getting out of this situation. Anyone in India seeking a visa appointment or visa have to wait for that's not certainly our ideal."

Also Read | U.S. missions in India to raise staff strength to speed up visa processing

She further stated, "So far this year, we have issued 36% more visas than we did before the COVID-19 pandemic in India. And that is a huge percentage of progress."

She also said that they are doing everything to reduce the wait time. "All the non-visitor time or student-visa have very very low wait times and that's really key. Our H-1B and F student's wait time were just as high almost six months ago and so we brought down the wait time," she added.

The H-1B visa, under the Immigration and Nationality Act, is a non-immigrant visa that allows U.S. companies to employ foreign workers in speciality occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise.

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Talking about the India-U.S. relationship, Deputy Assistant Secretary for India Nancy Jackson said that people-to-people is the most important tie between U.S. and India. "As I look at the relationship it strikes me that people-to-people ties between our two nations are really the bedrock of what is one of the most consequential relationships in the world and that is the India-U.S. relationship.

“And we can’t underscore that enough and so addressing the view wait time that we were facing is critical. Not only to maintain these people-to-people ties but also to expand in that space. So because of that, this issue remains a top priority,” she added.

Also Read | Making every effort to reduce visa interview appointment time in India: U.S.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Embassy in India said that Indians who are travelling abroad can get a visa appointment at the U.S. Embassy or consulate of their destination. It cited the example of Thailand, saying that the country has opened appointment capacity for B1 and B2 visas (business and travel) for Indians.

On January 21, the U.S. Mission in India launched the first in a series of special Saturday interview days to reduce wait times for first-time visa applicants. The U.S. Embassy in New Delhi and Consulates in Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata and Hyderabad all opened consular operations on Saturday to accommodate applicants who require in-person visa interviews. The U.S. Mission will continue to open additional slots for appointments to take place on select Saturdays, according to the statement released by the U.S. Embassy in India.

These additional interview days are among the measures that have been taken to address the backlog in visa processing caused by COVID-19. The U.S. Department of State has implemented remote processing of interview waiver cases for applicants with previous U.S. visas. According to the statement, dozens of temporary consular officers from Washington and other embassies will arrive in India to increase processing capacity in January-March.

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