The United States is making every effort to reduce the waiting time for visa interview appointments in India as soon as possible, a State Department spokesperson said Wednesday.
"Visa processing is recovering faster than projected and over the coming year, we expect to reach pre-pandemic processing levels," State Department spokesperson Ned Price told reporters at his daily news conference.
The U.S. issued more student visas in the fiscal year 2022 than in any year since 2016, he said, adding that its embassy and consulates in India in particular broke their all-time record for the number of student visas issued in a single fiscal year.
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"We issued nearly 1,25,000 student visas. We recognize that some applicants may still face extended visa wait times, and we're making every effort to further reduce visa interview appointment wait times as quickly as possible in India and around the world, including for first time tourist visa applicants," he said.
Responding to a question, Mr. Price said he certainly understands the frustrations of those having long wait times. "I can tell you that it is a priority of the Secretary and of the Department to do everything we can to reduce that backlog and ultimately to reduce the wait times. We are committed to safeguarding national security while facilitating legitimate travel to non immigrant travellers,” he said.
"And we know that timely visa processing is essential to the U.S. economy and to the administration's goal of family reunification. We've made great strides in recovering from pandemic-related closures and staffing challenges, but we're still working to respond to the significant demand for visa services,” he added.
Mr. Price said the demand for visa services has only increased as pandemic restrictions have eased in countries across the world and people are looking for opportunities to travel to the United States.
"We are successfully lowering visa wait times worldwide. We've doubled our hiring of U.S. Foreign Service personnel to do this important work. Visa processing is recovering faster than projected and over the coming year, we expect to reach pre-pandemic processing levels,” he said in response to a question.