US working to reduce visitor visa wait time for Indians: Top official

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US working to reduce visitor visa wait time for Indians: Top official
New Delhi: The United States is working towards further reducing the wait time for visitor visas for Indians following a decrease of 75 per cent last year, according to US Bureau of Consular Affairs Assistant Secretary Rena Bitter.

In an interview with PTI, Bitter noted that today more Indians can travel to the United States than in any other time in history. “Last year, the Embassy in India processed 1.4 million visas, explosion of an incredible number…in every category there is no wait time at all except in one area of travel where there is still some wait time and that is people travelling for the first time to the United States for tourism,” she said.

“It has been reduced 75 per cent over the last year and we are working really hard on this. We recognise that it is an incredibly important bilateral relationship and the foundation of the relationship is the people-to-people ties, the business travel and the family ties.

All these things are important to us and in Washington we are doing a lot of work to support this post (Indian) so they can meet the exploding demand,” she added. Asked about the plans for H1B visa, Bitter said the pilot programme which is underway to permit Indians living in the US to renew their H1B visa without travelling abroad will conclude in February.

“There is special place for Indian skilled workers in United States, they contribute so much to our economy. Indian embassy issued 34 per cent more H1B visas last year which is also the maximum in the history of the post. We take this issue seriously and this was a huge topic of conversation between Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Joe Biden during their meeting last year.

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“We introduced a pilot programme in January for revalidation of 20,000 Indian skilled workers in the United States. The pilot programme will conclude at the end of this month. It is going really well and once we complete the pilot period we will reevaluate and see what comes next to make it as easy as possible for Indians working in the US,” she said.

The H-1B visa is a non-immigrant visa that allows US companies to employ foreign workers in speciality occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise. Technology companies depend on it to hire tens of thousands of employees each year from countries such as India and China.

The pilot programme was started months after the White House announced the plan during the state visit of Prime Minister Modi in June last year. Talking about student visas, Bitter said, “one in four international students studying in United States is from India. It is incredible because it is not only they are getting top notch education which we are really proud of but they are also enriching our classrooms with their unique perspective and the key points that they bring to our classrooms.

“They make our students smarter too…So we are really excited about that. This is really important programme for us to make sure that Indian students have access to education in the United States and we have all pieces in place going forward to ensure that we meet the demand,” she added.

The number of Indians who travelled to the United States for higher education increased by 35 per cent and resulted in an all-time high of 2,68,923 students in the academic year 2022-23.

Last year, the US consular team in India issued over 1,40,000 student visas – more than in any other country in the world setting a record for the third year in a row.


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