US Puts High Priority On Student Visas; Don’t See Numbers Going Backwards In Our Lifetime: Envoy

US Puts High Priority On Student Visas; Don’t See Numbers Going Backwards In Our Lifetime: Envoy

America becomes part of the lives of Indians. For Americans who come to India, India becomes a part of our lives.

PTIUpdated: Sunday, April 28, 2024, 06:41 PM IST
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US Ambassador To India Eric Garcetti | ANI

 America puts “high priority” on student visas because it knows people-to-people ties “last a lifetime”, US envoy Eric Garcetti said here on Friday and asserted that its Mission is preparing to accommodate higher number of applications from Indian students this year.

In an interview to PTI at the American Center, he also recalled that US President Joe Biden had asked him to reduce waiting time for visas for Indians.

“He did! It is the first time, I think in American history that a President has told an ambassador — get those visas waiting time down. It is all because, we have Indian friends, they want to see their family members and colleagues, or business partners,” the envoy said.

Garcetti said there are a lot of Americans rooting for shorter wait times here.

The US also knows that if the wait time is down to zero, there is an endless desire of more Indians wanting to come to the US, he said, adding, “It is a great problem to have, even if it is a challenging logistical endeavour.” In the past, the US Ambassador to India had described the relationship between the two countries as a “multiplicative” one, saying, “It’s not India plus the United States, it is India times the United States when we get together.” On the education component being an important part of India-US ties, Garcetti said, “I think nothing ties our countries and our people together, more than our exchange students”.

“Literally, it is part of their lives. America becomes part of the lives of Indians. For Americans who come to India, India becomes a part of our lives,” he said, adding that “it is a very powerful connection between our countries”. It means India and Indians understand America and Americans, and it is helping open up America to “understand the incredible growth of India”, Garcetti said.

“And, the importance of this relationship as well. We can do a lot at the government level but people-to-people is now… And, to me those are relationships that will transcend whoever is in power, whatever the economic climate is, whatever is happening in the world. These are bonds that last a lifetime,” Garcetti added.

A pre-departure orientation programme was held at the American Center here for a group of Indian students who have been chosen for various academic programmes starting this fall at different universities.

American universities attract a large number of Indian students, and last year, the US consular team in India issued over 1,40,000 student visas — more than in any other country setting a record for the third year in a row.

Also, in 2023, the US Mission in India had processed a record 1.4 million visas overall.

“Even in a record-breaking year, and India became the number one source of students in higher education in the US last year, almost twice the amount of the second highest country of origin, we were able to accommodate all the students that needed to come get visas to US with appointments,” the US envoy said.

He attributed this to “a heroic effort” of a lot of dedicated public servants who worked weekends, arranged days just for students to make sure that students met their deadlines and American universities could welcome a historic number of Indian students.

“So, this year, we are preparing the same thing, we are doing it in tranches, sometimes it stresses people out, because their parents are not out there. But we get everybody in, in the time period that they need. And, that is really a high priority for us, because there are, of course, lots of different types of visas, business visas, tourist visas, immigrant visas.

“And, we put a high priority on student visas because we know, again, these ties last a lifetime. It is such a stressful moment for the students, for the parents, many families are thinking about whether their child will be in another country for the first time,” he added.

So, it is not a new announcement but this year, “we are preparing to accommodate the new higher numbers”, and to make sure there will be enough appointments for students to get to the US in a timely fashion, Garcetti said.

Asked if the US in anticipating a higher number of student visa applications this year, he said, “The trendlines are pretty clear, every year they have been going up. Obviously, the pandemic was an exception”.

“American universities are such extraordinary places to come to, wonderful communities, great research, wonderful faculty. I think that will continue to be a driver for a young population, a growing population, and the biggest population in the world. It is also a friend of the United States, those things together… I don’t see the number of students going backwards in our lifetime,” he added.

The US ambassador also spoke about further reducing wait time for first-time visitors visas for Indians.

The envoy said it was his goal to continue to work on it, adding, “we have been able to reduce by 75 per cent, the waiting time for those new tourist visas”.

“Highest was a 1,000-day wait but it is well under 250 days. All the rest of visa categories, which also have wait time, no longer have wait times. Basically, you can get an appointment within a couple of weeks,” Garcetti said.

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