India is a “top priority’’ for the US for issuance of visas and steps are being taken to ensure a significant cut in the wait time for applications, especially for those qualifying for drop-box facility, by mid-2023, senior officials in the US Embassy have said.
Washington is not only increasing the number of visa officials and hoping to bring it to the pre-Covid level by the summer of 2023, it is also bringing in temporary staff and starting the process of out-sourcing drop-box applications to other offices, an official said addressing the media.
“The wait time for drop-box visa applications, where in-person interviews are waived, has been mostly brought down to 9 months now for B1-B2 category visas (tourist and business) from earlier 450 days. We hope to bring it down further. And with a relaxation in the qualification criteria, many more are now qualifying for it. There will also be a decline in wait time for fresh applications,” the official said.
The number of US visa applications is expected to reach around 1.2 million by middle of next year and India is expected to move to the number two spot, after Mexico, from current number three, by displacing China., in terms of the number of visas being issued.
The official said the US has already identified H (H1B) and L category visas for Indians as its priority and nearly 1,00,000 slots were released recently for those wanting to renew the visas.
It is not correct to compare the wait time for US visa in India (which in some cases is estimated to be about two years) with that of others as the visa categories and applicants far outnumber those in most other nations. “The only comparison that can be drawn for India is that with China, but there has been a sharp drop in the number of visa applications there because of extended Covid-19 lockdown,” he explained.