US govt aware of long delays in visa appointments in India: White House

In the case of India, it has now crossed more than 1,000 days resulting in hardship to Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) families inside the US and abroad, as well as major disruptions for students, businesses, and visitors.

Washington: The Biden administration is aware of the agonising delay in visa appointments in India and is working to respond to the “significant demand” for these services, the White House has said, as the wait for visa interviews in the US missions in the country crossed 1,000 days.

Non-immigrant visa, visitor visa (B1/B2), student visa (F1/F2), and temporary worker visa (H, L, O, P, Q) appointments with embassies in specific Asian countries and Pacific Islands, including India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Nepal, and other countries, have extraordinarily long backlogs.

In the case of India, it has now crossed more than 1,000 days resulting in hardship to Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) families inside the US and abroad, as well as major disruptions for students, businesses, and visitors.

“I can say that the Biden administration is aware of the issues,” White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters at her daily news conference on Thursday.

“While we have made great strides, as you know, because you cover this very closely, in recovering from the pandemic-related closures and staffing challenges, we are still working to respond to the significant demand of these visa services,” Jean-Pierre said.

“That is something that we will continue to do. We are successfully lowering visa interview wait times, that’s around the world, and we’ve doubled our hiring of US Foreign Service personnel to do this important work. Visa processing is recovering faster than projected, and this year we expect to reach pre-pandemic processing levels,” she said.

Early this week, a presidential commission recommended President Joe Biden to consider issuing a memo to the State Department to reduce the visa appointment wait times to a maximum of two to four weeks for countries like India with significant backlogs.

During its meeting this week, the President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders, made a set of recommendations to the White House to reduce the growing delay in visa appointment times in US embassies globally, especially in India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, and other countries.

The US Embassy in New Delhi has earlier said that the wait time for non-immigrant visa applicants has gone up due to reduced workforce and coronavirus-related restrictions in operations since March 2020.

Moved by eminent Indian-American community leader Ajay Jain Bhaturia, the presidential commission recommended that Biden should consider issuing a memo to the State Department to reduce the visa appointment wait times to 2-4 weeks maximum for countries with significant backlogs, including India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and other countries in similar situations.

It recommended that the State Department should take all necessary steps to speed up the visa processing in embassies abroad and reduce the visa appointment wait times to 2-4 weeks maximum for India and other impacted embassies.

The State Department should allow for virtual interviews where applicable and allow staff from embassies around the world and US consular staff to help conduct virtual interviews to reduce high backlogs, it recommended.

The commission also recommended that the State Department should hire new full-time officers, temporary staff, contractors, or bring back retired consular officers to clear the backlog at relevant embassies in Asia which have wait times of over a month, prioritising those with 300+ day wait times, and reduce the wait time to two-four weeks by clearing the visa appointment backlog.

The State Department last month said that visa processing is rebounding faster than projected and is expected to reach pre-pandemic levels in the Fiscal Year 2023.

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