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Business News/ News / India/  Applying for US visa? Embassy answers concerns over travel

Applying for US visa? Embassy answers concerns over travel

Minister Counselor for Consular Affairs for the US, Don Heflin answered some of the visa-related questions that are frequently being asked. Here are the highlights from the conversation

Minister Counselor for Consular Affairs for US, Don Heflin with Vice Counselor KatePremium
Minister Counselor for Consular Affairs for US, Don Heflin with Vice Counselor Kate

Minister Counselor for Consular Affairs, Don Heflin, held a candid conversation with visa seekers via Facebook and Instagram live. Don Heflin addressed several visa-related concerns for students, businesses, tourists, and work.

Don Heflin stated that 82,000 visas were issued this year. He further said, “More Indian students are heading to the US, this year than students from any other part of the world. This is the first time that's happened and it's the most we've ever issued in one summer."

Longer wait time

Don Haflin addressed the concern of longer wait times for the approval of US visas. He mentioned that post-Covid, the staffing recovery is underway and the wait times are going to be cut short gradually.

He said, "I know some of you have some real concerns about wait times. I'm going to be honest with you. Just as we are with students during their season, you may not always get the answer you want, but we're going to give you the straight information. As you know, there's a long wait time. The good news is our recovery from Covid and post-Covid, the staffing problems is being taken care of. At the height of Covid and for a while after, we only had about 50 per cent of the visa consulates."

The Vice Counselor, who also held the live with the counselor, added that the staffing is climbing steadily and is now at 70 per cent. Addressing the issue of waiting time, she said, "It's a worldwide problem. If you look at our other big embassies around the world who do a lot of these applications every year, they've got very similar wait times."

Requests to expedite the visa application

Vice Counselor for Consular Affairs mentioned that the embassy received hundreds of requests for expedited appointments.

She said, “If you look at our website, our criteria are pretty strict because we can't handle everybody. If you fit those criteria, please feel free to request an expedite. If you don't, please don't."

Reiterating the rise in staffing, she said, “…we're going to be at about 100 per cent staffing a little bit before this time next year. Now at that point, we will be able to handle about 100 per cent of the volume of cases we got before Covid."

"Some of you read about the meeting between your foreign minister and our secretary of state the other day. Washington is sending us out temporary vice consuls. We're also going to get temporary vice consuls from other big embassies," she added citing the talks between Union Minister S Jaishankar and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

H and L visas

Counselor Heflin addressed the issue of the people who were unable to visit their families since Covid started. He acknowledged that “there are people in the US on H and L visas who haven't been able to come home and see their family since the pandemic started, and we sympathize with them a lot."

To solve their concern, he further added, “We are going to, sometime in the next few weeks, open 100,000 appointments in the year 2023 for this category of visas. And for those of you who are interested in this and want a slot, just check our website every two or three days, every two or 3 hours during October."

He further warned the applicants not to check the website more frequently than advised. He mentioned, “Don't check it any more than that because it will lock you out. You're locked out for 72 hours."

The Vice Counselor added that the H and L visas are for tourists, "people going to visit family, and also business people going for business meetings."

Long wait for B1 and B2 visas

The Vice Counselor said that one of the longest categories in terms of wait times is B1 and B2 first-time applicants.

Regarding long wait times on B1 and B2 visas, she said, “We're going to work on reducing that in the next few months as well. So we're going to open a lot of appointments soon."

Assuring applicants she added, “There's still going to be wait times, but we're going to keep recovering and recovering and getting more and more personnel onto it. And we will hit a point where we start to cut down the wait times and you'll see it happen on our computer system, our website, or social media pages."

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Published: 29 Sep 2022, 06:21 PM IST
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