In order to maintain the close ties between India and the United States between people, senior officials in the Biden administration have emphasised the significance of reducing visa wait times.
Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Nancy Jackson emphasised that people-to-people ties are the cornerstone of the US-India relationship during a roundtable discussion hosted by the State Department and the Foundation for India and Indian Diaspora Studies.
In order to maintain and strengthen these ties, as well as to increase them, she continued, visa wait times must be addressed.
Reducing Wait Time a Top Priority
Reduced visa wait times are the State Department’s top priority, according to Julie Stufft, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs.
The Department has taken a number of measures to address the issue, including waiving off visa interviews for more categories, sending representatives to conduct interviews in India, screening visa applications in the US, and opening up embassies in other nations for Indian visa applicants, such as Thailand and Germany.
Improvements Already Made
According to Stufft, the State Department has already made strides towards lowering the wait times for first-time visitor appointments. Furthermore, wait times for non-visitor visa categories like student and worker visas have decreased.
Stufft pointed out that the Department no longer requires interviews for frequent travellers, and that officers from all over the world are now able to process Indian visa applications rather than just those from Indian citizens.
More Work to Be Done
Despite these measures, there is still more work to be done, particularly in relation to visitor visa applications, which represent the largest category around the world. Although Stufft emphasised that progress is being made and officers are working around the clock to process applications, the Department is still trying to reduce wait times for this category.
Additional Resources to Help
The US has sent dozens of employees to India to process visa applications in an effort to cut down on wait times, many of whom will work weekends and shifts during the week.
The Department is also establishing new missions in cities like Bangkok where Indian nationals can travel without a visa. With this strategy, individuals can schedule their visa appointments elsewhere without having to wait in India.
Looking to the Future
Finally, Stufft also noted that the Department has issued 36% more visas in normal times in India than before the pandemic. This is expected to rise further as the year progresses.
She emphasised that the State Department is committed to devoting all of its resources to reducing visa wait times, highlighting that this is a top priority for the Department as its relationship with India grows stronger.
(Inputs From PTI News)