US visas for Indians in six days soon

Via Rediff News

October 12, 2006 15:33 IST
Last Updated: October 12, 2006 20:41 IST


Tired of waiting for months to get an appointment for an interview to secure a US visa? Here’s some good news for you.

The
prolonged wait for a visa may soon be a thing of the past with US
authorities looking to streamline the process for applying for
non-immigrant visas to America. Their goal: clearing visas in six days,
instead of the two to six months it takes currently.

As part of a
countrywide effort in this direction, the US Consulate General in
Mumbai has announced the addition of over 8,000 appointment dates to
the schedule for the next three months.

Addressing media persons
at a press conference at the US Consulate in Mumbai, Chief of Consular
Services Glen Keiser said: “Every year over 125,000 non-immigrant US
visas are adjudicated in India. Due to limited resources, the
processing of the applications used to take almost six months. The
authorities found this to be too long a delay. So, more resources, with
regard to increase in the number of personnel attending to applicants,
are being mobilised.”

“In order to further speed up the process,
we have a new Consulate coming up at the Bandra-Kurla Complex in
Mumbai, which will be operational by April 2008. The new Consulate will
process double the number of applications we do here,” he added. The
new building will have more staff, greater space and a larger waiting
hall.

With US Consulate General here initiating steps to
eliminate backlog of visa applications, Mumbai is all set to become the
leading non-immigrant US visa processing post in the world, Keiser
said.

“We will soon be the busiest post in the world,” he said.
Mumbai is at present the 12th busiest non-immigrant visa processing
post in the world with Mexico and Seoul being the leading posts,
Keiser, who had served in Mexico before joining Mumbai last month, said.

Walking
through the simplified process of applying for a visa, Keiser said that
applicants must, to begin with, pay the Application Fee and Visa
Facilitation Service charges at a designated branch of HDFC Bank.

Upon making the payments, the applicant is given a bar code, which gets activated within 48 hours.

“Once the bar code gets activated, the applicant can log on to the Web site www.vfs-usa.co.in
to select a date for the interview from the calendar. The applicant
must send in the application form and the required documents by post a
week prior to the date of interview,” he said.

“Once the
documents are received, the applicant will be called for the interview
on the date he or she decided. The date for the interview can also be
re-scheduled,” he added.

For those who had applied prior to the
announcement can also have their dates rescheduled to the earliest
date. In order to facilitate the process, the working hours have also
been rescheduled. Interviews will now be held from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on
working days. The interview process will also be conducted on alternate
Saturdays.

In case the applicant does not have Internet access at
home, he or she can get assistance from the VFS offices in Mumbai, Pune
and Ahmedabad.

Keiser also sought to dispel apprehensions about preference being given to business and student visas.

“Last
year, out of the 125,000 non-immigrant visa applications that were
received, 33,000 (26%) were requests for skilled work visas (H1B &
L), while 10,500 applications were for student visas, especially for
pursuing education at the Masters level. But this does not mean that
they do not go through the same process as other applications do. The
procedure is the same for everyone,” he said.

US Consul General
Michael S Owen, who was also present at the briefing, observed that the
visa facilitation process was being revamped keeping in mind the
growing ties between India and the United States.

He recalled the
statement made by US Ambassador to India David Mulford a few days ago
that relations between the two countries had never been so better.

“In
fact, our people have been establishing business and people-to-people
contacts in far greater numbers than anyone ever predicted. There has
been enormous growth in the movement of people between the two
countries, and the US Mission is making it a priority to make this
process easier,” he had said.

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