Moving employees from other departments around the world to India’s visa offices is one more step the United States is taking to shorten Indian visa wait times.
According to a tweet from the US Consulate in Mumbai, “Our incredible team of consular officers has temporarily left their regular duties around the world, from the State Department in DC to the US Consulate Naha, to help out with visa operations in Mumbai.”
The process of granting Indian visas has been accelerated in novel ways over the past few months by the United States, which has reduced visa delays for thousands of applicants by using its embassies in other countries to deal with the backlog in India.
After coronavirus-related travel restrictions were lifted, India was one of the very few countries where applications for US visas saw a significant increase.
The deputy assistant secretary for consular affairs, Julie Stufft, stated that reducing wait times was her top priority. She stated, “It’s the first thing I do when I wake up.” This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Due to the variety of visas and high demand, India’s visa procedures differ greatly from those of any other nation.”
Stufft acknowledged that wait times in India are still “too high.” However, the department had taken steps such as allowing Indian applicants to apply to other US embassies and consulates and removing interview requirements for regular travelers. She stated, “It’s not ideal, but it’s helping people who need to travel quickly.”
The number of applications processed by the US Embassy in India in January 2023 was more than one lakh, the most in any month since July 2019. According to Stufft, the United States issued 125,000 student visas in 2022, more than any other year.
The United States is taking to shorten Indian visa wait times
The President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders made a number of recommendations at its meeting in December to speed up visa appointment times in India and other countries like Pakistan, Nepal, and Bangladesh and cut down on the growing delays.
It recommended that the State Department hire new consular officers on a full-time or temporary basis, contractors, or bring back retired consular officers to reduce wait times at Asian embassies, which currently have wait times of 400 days or more, and reduce those wait times to 2-4 weeks by removing visa application backlogs.
According to its recommendation, the State Department could also utilize personnel from other embassies around the world to assist in clearing the backlog in Asian nations with significant appointments for visas that are delayed.
Concerns about the lengthy wait times for first-time visa applicants, particularly those applying under the B1 (business) and B2 (tourist) categories, have grown in India.
In October of last year, the waiting period for first-time B1/B2 visa applicants in India was close to three years “United States is taking to shorten Indian visa wait times”.
The State Department launched several initiatives in January, including scheduling special interviews for first-time applicants and increasing the strength of consular staff, in addition to implementing remote processing of interview waiver cases for applicants with previous US visas.
On January 21, it also held “special Saturday interview days.”
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