US aims to process ‘record’ number of visas for Indians in 2023: Official

NEW DELHI: Amidst weeks of crippling delays and massive backlogs in almost everything US visa US embassies and consulates in India are currently planning to process a record number of visas for Indians by 2023.
“Last year we processed over 800,000 total visa applications and we are close to pre-pandemic levels, which we expect to surpass by 2023,” said Consulate Director Mumbai. John Ballard told PTI.
This announcement comes just days after the US launched new initiatives to cut visa processing delays in India.
Last year, US visa interview wait times hit a record high due to the Covid-19 pandemic, leaving countless Indian students and job seekers in a dilemma.

The State Department has repeatedly raised the issue of visa delays with the US authorities as well as issues related to easier visa issuance for all types of Indian visitors.
Ballard said the only category the embassy is looking to reduce the backlog is for first-time B1 and B2 tourist and business visas.
“We recently opened 2.5 lakh appointments for B1/B2 visas across India and we have dozens of staff from embassies around the world and Washington DC, specifically to help we conduct interviews for first-time B1/B2 applicants,” said consular head Mumbai.
Alternatively, for visa extensions, applicants can now send their applications by email and the embassy has arranged for embassies around the world to hear those cases, allowing them to focus on conducting interviews for first-time applicants, he said.
Ballard said that “arbitration is just one part of many initiatives we are currently undertaking to help reduce the visa waiting time backlog.”
“Every position in our missions, all our consulates recently opened on Saturday, and we will reopen in February and March, and we will also be full.” enough staff by the end of the summer, so we’ll be looking to do even more initiatives, moving forward to find ways to reduce wait times. record visas this year with these initiatives,” he said.
There is growing concern in India about long wait times for first time visa applicants, especially for those applying under the B1 (business) and B2 (tourist) categories.
The wait time for first-time B1/B2 visa applicants in India was almost three years last October.
Meanwhile, the wait time for job visa interviews – such as H-1B and L1 visas – has decreased from 18 months to about 60 days.
The H-1B visa is a nonimmigrant visa that allows U.S. companies to hire foreign workers in special occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise.
Attempts to cut down meantime
Earlier, the US launched new initiatives such as scheduling special interviews for first-time applicants and increasing consular staff to cut down on visa processing delays in India. .
As part of a multi-pronged approach to reducing the visa backlog, the US Embassy in Delhi and consulates in Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata and Hyderabad conducted a “special interview day on Saturday”. on January 21st.
The mission is expected to open “additional slots” for appointments taking place on select Saturdays in the coming months.
“These additional interview dates are just part of a multi-pronged initiative to address the visa processing backlog caused by Covid-19,” the embassy said.
From January to March 2023, dozens of temporary consular officers from Washington and other embassies will travel to India to increase visa processing capacity.
(With input from PTI)


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