A presidential commission’s recommendations, such as opening American diplomatic missions outside of India for visa appointments to reduce the country’s visa backlog, have been quietly implemented by the US State Department. After coronavirus-related travel restrictions were lifted, India was one of the very few countries where applications for US visas saw a significant increase.
Ajay Jain Bhutoria, a Silicon Valley member of the commission, brought up the concern that excessive visa appointment delays were causing huge problems for the students and visitors who have plans to come to study in the US and visit the country.
According to the recommendations of the commission, the State Department should grant permission for virtual interviews wherever they are necessary, as well as for staff members from other embassies around the world as well as US consular personnel to assist in conducting virtual interviews at embassies that have a lot of backlogs and clearing them.
The suggestions included making appointments for visas at American diplomatic missions outside of India. Adding more counters, and using more resources to process visa applications.
The number of applications processed by the US Embassy in India in January 2023 was more than one lakh. The most in any month since July 2019.
Recommendations of the presidential commission to reduce visa backlog in India
The President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders made several recommendations. At its meeting in December to speed up visa appointment times in India. Also, other countries like Pakistan, Nepal, and Bangladesh cut down on the growing delays.
It recommended that the State Department hire new consular officers on a full-time or temporary basis, contractors, or bring back retired consular officers. To reduce wait times at Asian embassies, which currently have wait times of 400 days or more. And reduce those wait times to 2-4 weeks by removing visa application backlogs.
According to its recommendation, the State Department could also utilize staff from other embassies. Around the world to help in clearing the backlog in Asian nations with significant appointments for visas that are delayed.
The advisory committee noted that President Barack Obama issued a memo in 2012. To streamline the visa application process and cut the wait time from several months to a few days. According to the report, the revocation of the President Obama memo by the Trump government is one of the causes of appointment delays for Visas.
As a result, it suggested that President Joe Biden thinks about sending a memo. The State Department to reduce the wait times for visa appointments to no more than two to four weeks. For countries with large backlogs, such as India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and others in a similar situation.
Concerns about the lengthy wait times for first-time visa applicants, particularly those applying under the B1 (business) and B2 (tourist) categories, have grown in India.
In October of last year, the waiting period for first-time B1/B2 visa applicants in India was close to three years.
The State Department launched several initiatives in January. Including scheduling special interviews for first-time applicants and increasing the strength of consular staff. In addition to implementing remote processing of interview waiver cases for applicants with previous US visas.
On January 21, it also held “special Saturday interview days.”