In view of delays and a backlog in almost every visa category, the US embassy and its consulates in India plan to process a “record” number of visas for Indians this year, according to Mumbai Consular Chief John Ballard.
The current wait time for Indians applying for US work visas ranges from 60-280 days, while for travellers, it is around one and a half years.
Ministry of External Affairs Interventions
The external affairs ministry has raised the issue of visa delays with US authorities on several occasions, seeking ease in issuing visas for all categories of Indian travellers.
The embassy and its consulates in India issued over 1,25,000 student visas last year, a record number for Indians, and expects even more Indian students to apply for visas this year, according to Ballard.
Pre-Pandemic Visa Processing Levels Almost Reached
The US official also told PTI that the embassy has almost reached its pre-pandemic levels of visa processing and expects to surpass those levels this year.
“Last year, we adjudicated over 8,00,000 total visa adjudications and we are almost up to our pre-pandemic levels, which we expect to surpass in 2023,” Ballard said.
Focus on Reducing Backlog for B1 and B2 Visas
The only category in which the embassy is looking to reduce the backlog is for first-time B1 and B2 tourist and business travel visas.
The Mumbai consular chief said;
“We recently opened up 2.5 lacks of B1/B2 visa appointments throughout India and we have dozens of officers who have come from embassies around the world and Washington DC, specifically to help us to conduct interviews for first-time B1/B2 applicants.”
Efforts to Streamline Visa Renewals & Reduce Backlog
For visa renewals, applicants can now send their application by e-mail, and the embassy has arranged for embassies around the world to adjudicate those cases, allowing them to focus on conducting interviews for first-time applicants.
Ballard said that “adjudications are just part of the many initiatives that we are currently undertaking to help reduce the backlog for visa wait times.”
The embassy plans to process a record number of visas this year with initiatives such as being open on Saturdays, being fully staffed by the end of the summer, and finding ways to reduce the backlog for wait times.
Ballard emphasized that issuances and refusals for any visa category depending on the individual applicant and the category of visa they are applying for.
“B1/B2 visa applicants must be able to demonstrate the purpose of their travel to the US and their ties to India that would ensure their return,” the official said.