US mission in India announces new initiative to cut visa wait time

23 January, 2023 | Pragati Singh

India World

The US announced new visa measures for Indians on Sunday.

The US announced new visa measures for Indians on Sunday, including customised interviews for first-time applicants and increased visa staffing around the country to cut wait times for first-time visa applicants. As part of this strategy, the US opened consulate offices around the country to assist applicants who need in-person visa interviews.

“On January 21, the U.S. Mission in India launched the first in a series of special Saturday interview days, as part of a larger effort to reduce wait times for first-time visa applicants. The United States Embassy in New Delhi and Consulates in Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata and Hyderabad all opened consular operations on Saturday to accommodate applicants who require in-person visa interviews,” the US embassy said in a statement.

“In the coming months, the Mission will continue to open additional slots for appointments to take place on select Saturdays,” the statement added.

According to the embassy, the US government has established remote processing of interview waiver cases for applicants with prior US visas.

“Between January and March 2023, dozens of temporary consular officers from Washington and other embassies will arrive in India to increase processing capacity,” the statement added.

The US State Department is also boosting the number of consular officials permanently assigned to the Embassy and Consulates, according to the report.

“More than 250,000 extra B1/B2 appointments were made available by the US Mission in India. The Consulate General of Mumbai has extended its weekday operation hours to accommodate more appointments “the statement went on to say.

According to the embassy, the Consulate General of Mumbai now adjudicates the most visa applications in India and is one of the world’s largest visa operations.

“Our consular teams across India are putting in the extra hours to meet the needs of international travelers and bring down wait times,” said Mumbai Consular Chief John Ballard. “This is part of a Mission wide effort to find innovative solutions to facilitate travel to the United States.”

The COVID-19 epidemic severely reduced the Department’s visa processing capacity, and many of its embassies and consulates were only able to provide emergency services at times.

“As travel restrictions have been lifted, the U.S. Mission to India has made it a priority to facilitate legitimate travel and adjudicated over 800,000 nonimmigrant visas in 2022, including record numbers of both student and employment visas. In every other visa category, interview wait times in India are at pre-pandemic levels or lower,” the US embassy said.

“By this summer, the U.S. Mission in India will be at full staffing, and we expect to be processing visas at levels from prior to the COVID-19 pandemic,” the embassy added.