CHANDIGARH: Concerned at the large number of people giving false information to obtain visas for the United States, its embassy in India has decided on tough steps to check visa fraud, including taking “fingerprints of all 10 digits.”
“The US mission is alarmed by the rush of clearly unqualified visa applicants in recent weeks. A significant number of applicants are relying on incorrect information and are using false documents to support their applications,” US Consul General Peter Kaestner told reporters at the Press Club on Wednesday.
He said it had decided on touch steps to curb visa fraud and while biometric samples and electronic images of a person’s face were already being taken besides two fingerprints, “fingerprints of all 10 digits will now be taken to make it impossible for anybody to cheat to get a visa.”
Replying to a question on the recent case of alleged involvement of some MPs in human trafficking, Kaestner said they had strict procedures in place to detect such fraud.
“Only a few months back, we had this gentleman who pretended to be from the Congress party and gave us false documents to obtain a visa but he was caught,” he said. From October 2005 to September 2006, 4.6 lakh visa applications had been processed while between October 2006 and September 2007, they were expecting the figure to jump to 7 lakh.
Kaestner said in March they had brought down the waiting period of getting visas from 6 months to 6 days but with rush of unqualified visa seekers, the waiting time was now around a month.
The refusal rate had gone up to 30 per cent from 20 per cent because of fraudulent information and documents given by people, he said.
He said there were individuals and companies taking advantage of citizens by suggesting they could provide a short cut to an American visa.
“They are deceiving innocent people into wasting their money and making it harder for legitimate travelers to obtain visa appointments,” Kaestner said.
On some Indian firms being asked to disclose workforce details by two US lawmakers who felt H-IB visas were being abused to displace qualified American workers, he said information was being gathered and the US senate preparing a comprehensive immigration reform legislation.
To a question, he said 30,000 Green Cards were given to Indians last year even as “no limit” had been put on student visas.
“Last year, we issued 26,000 student visas to Indians, showing an increase of 30 per cent in the number of visas issued in 2005. We are also in the process of negotiating with the Indian government our partnership to double the Fulbright scholarships,” he said.