Wait until mid-2023 for normalization of US visas Latest News India
US visa wait times are expected to move toward further normalization by mid-2023, although some progress has already been made through rule changes and the opening of 100,000 slots for H and L work visas, a senior US embassy official said Thursday.
After issuing 82,000 student visas for India this year, the priority now is to reduce the waiting time for non-immigrant work visas such as H and L categories, including the coveted H-1B visas, B-1 business visas, B-2 tourism. visa and visas for cargo companies and airline crews.
The US will initially “aggressively” focus on applicants in these categories using the drop box facility, or those who have already obtained a US visa and are exempt from interviews, before starting the first-time applicant case. The official said efforts will be focused on reducing waiting times as much as possible and moving towards greater normalization by June-July 2023.
Priority will also be given to H-1B visa holders in the US who wish to visit India for family reunions, after which the focus will shift to first-time applicants.
Unlike other departments of the US State Department, the Bureau of Consular Affairs, which is responsible for issuing visas, is funded by revenue. As the Covid-19 pandemic has affected visa operations and revenue, the Bureau must be adequately sized. As visa applications, including from India, saw a huge jump, it was working to increase staff.
Deploying, training and deploying personnel overseas will take more time because “the government is slower to come back,” and India is expected to be 100% staffed by the summer of 2023, the official said. The US is also resorting to steps like using temporary workers and sending Indian applications to remote locations for processing, especially for those using the Drop Box facility.
“The opening of 100,000 additional slots for H and L visas has cut the wait time by about half, which was more than a year ago. The wait time for drop box users for B-1 and B-2 visas continues to be several months. We will see progress in the next nine months,” the official said.
While the U.S. State Department’s visa wait time website shows first-time applicants for B-1 and B-2 visas in New Delhi at 925 days, the official said the actual time would be less.
“India is now the number one priority for Washington… In all categories, there are a lot of applicants in India alone, and that’s why it’s a priority,” the official said, admitting that experts were not prepared for the pace of demand. the visas came after the epidemic subsided. Experts expected an increase in demand only in 2025, the official added.
The US expects applications for all types of visas in India to increase to about 100,000 per month or about 1.2 million per year by 2023, making the country the second largest visa application after China. “But we are seeing signs of progress. The daily cases are several hundred more than the number of applicants,” said the official.
Certain rule changes mean that more Indians are eligible to use the drop box facility to opt out of an interview. For example, those who have had a US visa that has expired within the last four years can use the drop box option when applying for a new B-1 or B-2 visa. Students with an expired US visa can also use the drop box under certain conditions.
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