After COVID-19 travel curbs were eased, the US found itself in a new pickle- a backlog of visa applications, particularly from Indian nationals. Citing reduced staffing and pandemic-related disruptions in operations since March 2020, the US embassy in India has said that the demand for visas across all categories is high.
The embassy added that wait times may also be longer for most non-immigrant visa appointments at the embassy in New Delhi and the consulates in Chennai, Hyderabad, Kolkata, and Mumbai.
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A wait time for a US visa of over two years is what most Indians are now staring at. In Delhi, the waiting period for Visitor Visas is 833 calendar days, 430 calendar days for Student/Exchange Visitor visas and 390 calendar days for all other non-immigrant visas.
Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar raised the matter with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken earlier in the week. Jaishankar later said that India is ready to cooperate with the US in every way possible to help ease the problem.
“I suggested US State Secretary Blinken that if there was something that the Indian government could do to help the US government deal with this issue in a better way, we would be very open to doing it. But, this is an issue where it’s mainly for the US to do, we’ll be supportive,” Jaishankar told reporters.
“In India, there are families unable to meet, students waiting for a long time. So it’s a serious problem. But I’m confident, with the sincerity Blinken showed, I hope they’d address this & with any support that we can provide, we hope things will improve.”
Blinken said he was “extremely sensitive” to the issue. “It is a product largely of the pandemic. Our ability to issue visas dropped dramatically during Covid. This is a self financing part of the State Department…When Covid hit, the demand for visas fell..the system as a whole suffered.”
Even though other nationalities are also affected, the problem is bigger for Indians as they make up a large proportion of the recipients of H-1B and other work visas granted to skilled foreign workers, many in the tech industry.
The embassy further said that the Department of State has authorised consular officers to waive the in-person interview requirement for certain categories of visa applicants- F, H-1, H-3, H-4, non-blanket L, M, O, P, Q, and academic J visas-until December 31, 2022.
(With inputs from agencies)