Minister-Counselor for Consular Affairs in the U.S. Embassy Donald L. Heflin on Tuesday said eight lakh U.S. visas were likely to be issued in 12 months in India in what he hoped to be a recovery year for visa operations since the disruptions caused by COVID-19.
He said this would be two-thirds of the roughly 12 lakh visas that were being issued annually before the pandemic. With the embassy planning to address the staff shortage in the Consulates over the next year, he expressed hope that the numbers will go up to the pre-COVID levels during the second half of 2023.
Highlighting that issuance of student visas was restored to pre-pandemic levels last summer itself with the issuance of 62,000 visas, he said the embassy was hoping to surpass this number this summer. Similarly, he said three lakh ‘H’ and ‘L’ category visas were likely to be issued in the next 12 months, which he said would adequately meet the demand.
Pointing out that opening up of visa appointments began 10 days ago around the country, he said slots were available for most categories from mid-June or mid-July. He, however, said slots were not available for ‘H’ and ‘L’ non-interview cases as the slots opened were oversubscribed. The persons in this category would be able to book appointments in the next few weeks for slots from September 1.
Similarly, for first time applicants in B1 and B2 category, 500 appointments a day will be available from September 1. Persons in this category would be able to book the appointments in the next few weeks, he said.
Drop box appointments
Mr. Heflin said options would be made available for submitting the documents and fingerprints at the nearest visa application centre for those who are eligible for drop box appointments and not interviews.
Elaborating, he said people were booking appointments in Consulates in other cities if an earlier appointment was not available in the nearest ones. He said even in the case of drop box appointments, people were travelling to other cities to submit documents, which could be avoided going forward. For instance, if a person from Chennai booked an appointment in the U.S. Consulate in Kolkata, he or she can choose the visa application centre in Chennai to submit the documents instead of travelling to Kolkata.