More visa categories will be eligible for interview waivers in the US
According to a senior official at the US embassy in India, the scope of the “dropbox” facility, which is used to renew a US visa without conducting an in-person interview, will now be extended to several visa categories, including student visas, business and tourist visas, and skilled worker visas. The United States is considering expanding the scope of interview waivers for Indian citizens seeking US visas.
A person who has already obtained a visa in a certain category will now be eligible for the interview waiver, and will be able to utilize the dropbox service.
It is expected that this move – subject to certain conditions being met – will significantly reduce the waiting time for US visas in the days to come, the official informed the media on Thursday.
Despite admitting that waiting times have been unusually long since the Coronavirus outbreak, largely due to a massive backlog of applications and staffing problems, the official said that steps are being taken to address these issues. According to the official, the US embassy anticipates visa processing will be back to pre-pandemic levels by the summer of 2023.
Moreover, the embassy official explained that the waiver of the in-person interview will also apply to those whose B1 and B2 (tourist and business) visas have expired in the last four years.
Students who have previously travelled to the United States on tourist visas can also request an interview waiver; however, they may be required to provide their biometrics if they did not do so earlier.
Additional measures taken to ease the visa wait time for Indians include adding consular staff and transferring dropbox cases to other locations for processing. An embassy official reported that the wait time has already decreased from 450 days [15 months] to approximately nine months.
Depending on the visa category, the average wait time ranged from a few weeks (for most visas) to a few months (for B1/B2 visas during peak season).
In terms of the total number of visas issued by the US, India ranks third – after Mexico and China – and is expected to rise to second by next summer, according to the US embassy official. Washington considers India a “top priority” in this regard.
In the last year, more than 82,000 visas have been awarded to Indian citizens, on average, and approximately 700 cases are being handled every day.
It is noteworthy that India is one of a few countries where visa applications have significantly increased since the withdrawal of pandemic-related travel restrictions. The group included business travelers, students, skilled workers, and tourists.
Similarly, the US is attempting to expedite the process for crew visas, which are used by airline and cruise employees. He expects to see more progress in the next nine months.
Easing visa rules by extending dropbox or interview waivers across categories is expected to reduce unnecessary hassle for both US consular staff and applicants. Washington gives New Delhi top priority when it comes to addressing the concerns of Indian citizens regarding delays in obtaining US visas.