On May 11, Don Heflin, Minister Counselor for Consular Affairs at the U.S. Government office in New Delhi went live on Instagram and Facebook to report on visa processing and services with a special focus on students. This is a summary of the information shared with the audience.
The Minister began by saying that the summertime is about visas and that they had made special arrangements for student visas. He confirmed that they had given a record 62,000 student visas last year and expected to break that record this year. They hope to give more student (F, M, and Js including dependent) visas than ever before.
Visa Processing | Capacity Building
While resolving inquiries about a return to “normal” levels of service the Minister indicated that this year they expect to be a 2/3rd of their pre-COVID capacity and hope to reach 100% of this by the end of 2023. To increase capacity, Mission India is recruiting more officers in addition to training existing staff members, and so on. They recently added five more visa officers at their Consulate in Mumbai.
Special Arrangements for Students
- An enormous number of student visa appointments will be carried out in the following months starting next week.
- Students right now in the U.S. will get Dropbox appointments easily as they will open more appointments for them.
- Between August 15 – September 1 they will open up 15,000 slots for students with past refusals. Students who receive their I-20s later than expected could also avail themselves of these appointments.
- Parents who have visas or are eligible for Dropbox appointments could travel to the U.S. with their student children.
- Appointments for first-time B-2 visa candidates or for the people who don’t qualify for Dropbox (all in all called new candidates here). Appointments might avail of appointments that will be added to the system in late August or early September. They will release a large number of appointments from this period through Spring 2023 for new visa candidates.
Pitfalls and Tips for Visa Processing
- Check for visa appointments multiple times a day yet if you “refresh” the portal frequently you might be locked out of the system for 72 hours.
- Candidates are advised to be ready to “tell their story” during the visa interview. This should be similar to an elevator pitch as visa interviews usually last for a couple of minutes or so.
- Candidates should carry all their financial documents to the interview. However, officers at Mission India generally do not focus on the ability to pay for the course. As Indian parents almost always find ways to pay for their education and stay.
- Neither English language tests nor elevated degrees of proficiency in the language are essential for an interview. However, a candidate who isn’t proficient in English might find it difficult during the interview to justify bonafide intent to study.
- Applicants who get 221(g) notices should make the action required in the notification without any delay. This helps the officers quickly make decisions.
- Third-country nationals might apply in India, yet it is ideal to apply in the nation where one lives.
- A visa can be given only within 120 days before a student’s course starts the day. One could apply before that. However, the case will be kept pending under 221(g) and the candidate will be asked to send in the passport at a later date.
- It helps the candidate to be confident and articulate during the visa interview. Canned answers do not help but sharing a personal story that influenced the choice of the institute would help.
- Dropbox applications are generally processed within seven days after the Dropbox appointment.
- Even if the educational institute has waived any test. It would be best to take it as a good score would be an advantage in the interview.