Lowering the wait time for American visas in India is the top goal for the United States, from the desk of Secretary of State Antony Blinken to the office of consular affairs to the mission and consulates in India, according to two officials who spoke on Tuesday. In addition, they highlighted the “extraordinary” measures that have been taken to speed the visa process, stated that the United States will issue more visas to Indians than it did before the pandemic, and acknowledged that delays in the process had undermined public goodwill in India.
Nancy Izzy Jackson, the deputy assistant secretary for the South and Central Asia bureau, informed reporters and Indian diaspora community representatives at the state department that people-to-people contacts comprised the foundation of the India-United States relationship.
“Addressing visa wait times is essential not only to sustain but also to expand these ties….
We are well conscious of the public picture that this has established, namely that the United States is unwelcoming to Indian tourists, students, and businesspeople. But, this is a systemic, worldwide issue. The situation in India is worse. That is a key priority from the secretary on down, and the United States wants more visitors,” Jackson added.
Julie Stufft, deputy assistant secretary at the bureau of consular affairs, said on Tuesday that the wait period for a visa interview was 580 days.
“Each day when I get up, I check the wait time…
It amazes me that 580 days have passed. Yet in December, 1000 days had passed. Hence, we have made progress, but the wait period is excessive. “We are totally dedicated to escaping this predicament,” stated Stufft.
Stufft stated that visa operations in India were both unique and inherently difficult due to the scale of demand and the variety of visa types on which Indians sought to enter the United States, adding that the shutdown of visa operations due to the pandemic had contributed to the problem by forcing a short staffed and underresourced consular department to handle the pent-up demand.
She stated that wait times have decreased for tourists who had already visited the United States, as well as for individuals in the H1 and F categories (work and student, respectively). This year, 36% more visas have been issued than during the same period prior to the pandemic. Visas were awarded to 125,000 Indian students in 2022, the largest number ever. Nonetheless, Stufft conceded that the United States must now address the B1 and B2 visitor visa categories.
Then, Stufft detailed the numerous measures being taken to expedite visa processing timelines.
This has also allowed officers in other missions across the world to handle India visas, thus someone in our embassy in China may be processing India visas so that the Indian mission can focus on individuals who must undergo interviews.
Unprecedentedly, the United States has opened up other missions to process India visa applications, with the embassy in Bangkok emerging as the primary location for visa processing.
“This situation is not ideal. “But, Indians have requested for visas at over 100 embassies abroad, and many are taking advantage of this,” said Stufft.
The United States has added personnel to its embassies and consulates in India.
We have deployed dozens of additional staff members who are working weekday shifts and weekends, and we are prepared to increase personnel levels in order to reduce wait times.
The United States has also decided to enable domestic renewal of visas beginning this fall, meaning that persons whose non-immigrant visas are expiring do not need to return to India to renew their visas, but can do it in the United States.
All of these measures, according to both authorities, will drastically lower wait times, and the United States will issue more visas to Indian travellers than before the outbreak. Visa delays have been a high policy focus for diaspora organisations such as the Foundation for Indian and Indian Diaspora Studies, whose representatives attended the briefing and lobbied their elected officials and the state department. External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar highlighted the problem with Senator Blinken during his visit to Washington last year. Senator Blinken pledged to handle it.
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