In response to the visa processing backlog caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, the United States has implemented a number of measures, including holding additional visa interviews on Saturdays and hiring temporary staff, to reduce applicant wait times.
It is worth noting that the US Department of State has previously announced efforts to reduce visa interview appointment wait times in India. According to official statements, visa processing is recovering faster than expected and will return to pre-pandemic levels in the near future.
Saturday Interviews to Reduce Visa Wait Times
On January 21st, the US embassy in New Delhi and consulates in Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata, and Hyderabad held the first of several special Saturday visa interview days as part of a larger effort to reduce wait times for first-time applicants.
The US embassy and consulates in India have announced that they will hold special interview days for applicants who require in-person visa interviews.
“In the coming months, the mission will continue to open additional slots for appointments to take place on select Saturdays,” the US embassy said in a statement.
For applicants who have previously held US visas, the US Department of State has already implemented remote processing of interview waiver cases. As a result, these applicants will no longer be required to have in-person interviews for the US visa.
The statement from the US Embassy further reads that “Between January and March 2023, dozens of temporary consular officers from Washington and other embassies will arrive in India to increase processing capacity.”
The US Department of State is also boosting the number of consular officers permanently stationed at the embassy and consulates in India.
Also Read: Appointments For US Visas For Few Categories Available In Less Than A Week: Details Here
Other Efforts to Reduce Visa Wait Times
In other efforts to reduce the visa wait times in India, the US mission in Mumbai has announced the release of over 250,000 additional B1 and B2 visa appointments, as well as the extension of weekday operating hours to accommodate additional appointments.
By the summer, the US mission will be fully staffed and visas will be processed at pre-pandemic levels.
While addressing the backlog, the US will initially prioritise student visas before shifting its focus to reducing wait times for non-immigrant work visas such as the H and L categories, which include the H-1B, B-1 business, B-2 tourism visas, and visas for airline and shipping crews.
The US anticipates that visa applications in India will increase to around 100,000 per month, or approximately 1.2 million annually, by 2023, making India the second-largest visa-operating country after China.
According to a statement, the pandemic reduced the US Department of State’s visa processing capacity significantly. With travel restrictions lifted, the US mission in India will process over 800,000 non-immigrant visas, including student and employment visas, in 2022.
The statement also stated that wait times for interviews in India have returned to pre-pandemic levels or are even shorter in all other visa categories.
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