US embassy unveils initiative to cut visa wait time for Indians
The United States announced new visa initiatives for Indians including special interviews for first-time applicants and greater strength of visa staff across the country to reduce wait times for first-time visa applicants.
As part of this initiative, the United States opened consular operations across the country to accommodate applicants who require in-person visa interviews. "On January 21, the U.S. Mission in India launched the first in a series of special Saturday interview days, as part of a larger effort to reduce wait times for first-time visa applicants. The United States Embassy in New Delhi and Consulates in Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata and Hyderabad all opened consular operations on Saturday to accommodate applicants who require in-person visa interviews," the US embassy said in a statement.
"In the coming months, the Mission will continue to open additional slots for appointments to take place on select Saturdays," the statement added.
The embassy said that the US government has implemented remote processing of interview waiver cases for applicants with previous U.S. visas. "Between January and March 2023, dozens of temporary consular officers from Washington and other embassies will arrive in India to increase processing capacity," the statement added.
It also said the US State Department is also increasing the number of consular officers permanently assigned to the Embassy and Consulates.
"The U.S. Mission in India released more than 250,000 additional B1/B2 appointments. Consulate General Mumbai also extended its weekday operating hours to make space for additional appointments," the statement added.
Consulate General Mumbai currently adjudicates the most visa applications in India and is one of the largest visa operations in the world, the embassy said.
"Our consular teams across India are putting in the extra hours to meet the needs of international travelers and bring down wait times," said Mumbai Consular Chief John Ballard. "This is part of a Mission wide effort to find innovative solutions to facilitate travel to the United States."
The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in profound reductions in the Department's visa processing capacity, and many of its embassies and consulates were at times only able to offer emergency services.
"As travel restrictions have been lifted, the U.S. Mission to India has made it a priority to facilitate legitimate travel and adjudicated over 800,000 nonimmigrant visas in 2022, including record numbers of both student and employment visas. In every other visa category, interview wait times in India are at pre-pandemic levels or lower," the US embassy said.
"By this summer, the U.S. Mission in India will be at full staffing, and we expect to be processing visas at levels from prior to the COVID-19 pandemic," the embassy added.