The Biden Administration is aware of the long delays in visa appointments in India and is working to respond to the "significant demand of these visa services", the White House said Thursday.
“I can say that the Biden administration is aware of the issues,” White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters at her daily news conference.
She was responding to a question on the agonising long visa appointment period at the U.S. missions in India, which currently runs into more than 1,000 days.
“While we have made great strides, as you know, because you cover this very closely, in recovering from the pandemic related closures and staffing challenges, we are still working to respond to the significant demand of these visa services,” Ms. Jean-Pierre said.
“That is something that we will continue to do. We are successfully lowering visa interview wait times, that's around the world, and we've doubled our hiring of U.S. Foreign Service personnel to do this important work. Visa processing is recovering faster than projected, and this year we expect to reach pre-pandemic processing levels,” she said.
Early this week, a presidential commission recommended President Joe Biden to consider issuing a memo to the State Department to reduce the visa appointment wait times to a maximum of two to four weeks for countries like India with significant backlogs.
Non-immigrant visa, visitor visa (B1/B2), student visa (F1/F2), and temporary worker visa (H, L, O, P, Q) appointments with embassies in specific Asian countries and Pacific Islands, including India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Nepal, and other countries, have extraordinarily long backlogs.
In the case of India, it has now crossed more than 1,000 days resulting in hardship to Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) families inside the U.S. and abroad, as well as major disruptions for students, businesses, and visitors.
During its meeting this week, the President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders, made a set of recommendations to the White House to reduce the growing delay in visa appointment times in U.S. embassies globally especially in India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, and other countries.
Moved by eminent Indian American community leader Ajay Jain Bhaturia, the presidential commission recommended that Mr. Biden should consider issuing a memo to the State Department to reduce the visa appointment wait times to 2-4 weeks maximum for countries with significant backlogs, including India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and other countries in similar situations.
It recommended that the State Department should take all necessary steps in order to speed up the visa processing in embassies abroad and reduce the visa appointment wait times to 2-4 weeks maximum for India and other impacted embassies.
The State Department should allow for virtual interviews where applicable and allow staff from embassies around the world and U.S. consular staff to help conduct virtual interviews to reduce high backlogs, it recommended.
The Commission also recommended that the State Department should hire new full-time officers, temporary staff, contractors, or bring back retired consular officers to clear the backlog at relevant embassies in Asia which have wait times of over a month, prioritising those with 300+ day wait times, and reduce the wait time to two-four weeks by clearing the visa appointment backlog.