Sunday, December 10, 2023

Visa blues to end soon? US fixing it as Jaishankar flags the issue

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Millions of students every year dream of pursuing their education abroad and it goes without saying that both the US and Canada stand out to be the most sought-after destinations globally. These nations are a top choice for laying the foundation for your future due to a number of aspects, including their top-notch education system, multicultural atmosphere, high rate of employment, and simple application procedure.

With Indians making up 50% of the international students that Canada welcomed in the year 2021, roughly around 4,50,000 international students made their way to Canada. And according to reports, the numbers are expected to double this year.

This nation is a top choice for laying the foundation for your future due to a number of aspects, including its top-notch education system, multicultural atmosphere, high rate of employment, and simple application procedure.

Many students have already begun their online courses while hundreds are impatiently waiting for their applications to be accepted. However, their inability to access the internet and the time zone difference provide little relief. One day before his visa came, a 23-year-old student from Chhattisgarh committed suicide, drawing attention to the declining mental health of students.

With applicants having to endure long wait times and some being given interview dates in 2024, India has brought to the attention of the US the major difficulties Indian residents, particularly professionals and tourists, are having in getting American visas.

India brought up the problem of visa delays and barriers to human movement during a meeting between US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar on Tuesday in Washington, and the US promised to take action within months.

People with knowledge of the situation said that the US has been focusing on visas for Indian students over the past few weeks, particularly in light of the start of classes at US educational institutions in September. Currently, the issue is primarily with the H, L, and B categories of visas, including the highly sought-after H-1B2 visas.

According to the sources, the Indian side has also raised major concerns over visa requests for the UK, Canada, and other European nations like Germany, which are popular with Indian students and visitors. Many reports regarding visa delays have been made to the foreign affairs ministry, mostly by students and business travellers.

In response to these problems, the Canadian High Commission stated that they fully comprehend the “frustration and disappointment” of Indian students and would continue to implement various efforts to shorten the waiting period.

“We acknowledge your disappointment and anger and want to reassure you that we are making efforts to make things better.

In reality, we’ve been processing applications all year long, including those for study visas for the September 2022 intake, according to the high commission.

“Each week, hundreds of students in India receive their visas. We will keep working hard to cut wait times in the face of an unprecedented number of applications submitted, it continued.

After the discussion with Blinken, Jaishankar stated at a joint press conference that the issue of visas is essential since it is critical to family reunions, commerce, technology, and education. There have recently been some difficulties, which I brought to the attention of Secretary Blinken and his colleagues. I am confident that they will treat some of these issues seriously and constructively.

Blinken said that he is “very sensitive” to the matter and that the Covid-19 outbreak presents a difficulty for the US globally. The only self-financing division of the state department, he claimed, “our capacity to issue visas declined substantially under Covid.”

He added that the US has a plan to deal with the backlog of visas in India and that the amount of fees received for visas determines the ability to put staff in place to process applications. “The system as a whole suffered when Covid struck since the demand for visas dropped to an all-time low and visa costs were eliminated. We had limitations from Covid on the number of people we could have in our embassies at any given moment when actually granting visas, even with far more constrained resources, he said.

The US State Department’s webpage for visa appointment wait times estimates that applicants in New Delhi for the B-1 business visa and B-2 tourist visa will have to wait 833 days, or more than two years, to be scheduled for an interview. These visas take 767 days at the Kolkata consulate and 848 days at the Mumbai consulate to process.

The waiting period at the US embassy in Beijing, the capital of China, is two days, whereas it is 545 days in Dhaka, the city of Bangladesh. In Dhaka, the wait times for student and other non-immigrant visas are 72 days and 43 days, respectively, whereas they are 430 days and 390 days in New Delhi.

The individuals quoted above advised that these anticipated wait times are more of “placeholders” and that the real-time taken may be less. But ultimately, there is a problem, and this gets in the way of India and the US’s strong people-to-people relationships, one of the participants said.

According to the US embassy spokeswoman, the US state department has “made aggressive plans to staff up all Mission India offices to their greatest levels ever” in order to handle the backlog. This builds on the strategy mentioned by Blinken.

Read more: US responds to EAM Jaishankar’s remarks on US-Pak ties

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