India is the top priority for the US, according to US Visa authorities, who also noted that the US had issued 36 percent more visas to Indians so far this year than in pre-Covid-19 pandemic times
The longest wait time, typically for first-time visitors, has been reduced from over 1,000 days to around 580 as a result of such measures, which also include interview waivers for repeat visitors, increased staffing at consular operations in Indian missions, and "Super Saturdays" when mission staff simply process visas all day.
'India is the number one priority'
While addressing a media interaction organised by Foundation for India and Indian Diaspora Studies on Tuesday, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Visa Services in the Bureau of Consular Affairs Julie Stufft said, "India is the number one priority that we are facing right now. We are absolutely committed to getting out of this situation. Anyone in India seeking a visa appointment or visa have to wait for that's not certainly our ideal."
She further said, "So far this year, we have issued 36 per cent more visas than we did before the COVID pandemic in India. And that is a huge percentage of progress."
Stufft also announced that come fall, the US will start the Visa stamping program domestically within the US for visa renewals, including H-1 and L-1.
The Department of State representative told reporters that initiatives are in place to speed up domestic visa revalidation in certain categories on a pilot basis.
Stufft also stated that come fall, the US will begin the Visa stamping procedure for visa renewals, including H-1 and L-1 visas.
According to a spokesman from the Department of State, pilot programmes are in place to expedite domestic visa revalidation in specific categories.
"This fall will be the first that we'll be able to put out a call for applications. The pilot is this summer..and we're gonna be doing it for people in worker status. So that would be H's and L and, and I's," the official added.
Acknowledging that the difficulties are still being experienced, authorities said the agency was also expanding its interview waiver process for select temporary workers, students, and academic exchange visitors.
"All the non-visitor time or student-visa have very very low wait times and that's really key. Our H-1B and F student's wait time were just as high almost six months ago and so we brought down the wait time," she added.
The H-1B visa is a non-immigrant visa under the Immigration and Nationality Act that allows US companies to hire foreign workers in specialist jobs that require theoretical or technical ability.
On discussing the India-US relationship, Deputy Assistant Secretary for India Nancy Jackson stated that the most essential link between the US and India is people-to-people.
People-to-people ties are the bedrock
"As I look at the relationship it strikes me that people-to-people ties between our two nations are really the bedrock of what is one of the most consequential relationships in the world and that is the India-US relationship. And we can't underscore that enough and so addressing the view wait time that we were facing is critical. Not only to maintain these people-to-people ties but also to expand in that space. So because of that, this issue remains a top priority," she added.
For applicants with previous US visas, the US Department of State has established remote processing of interview waiver cases. In order to increase processing capacity, dozens of temporary consular employees from Washington and other embassies will travel to India between January and March.