US to raise staff strength to expedite visa processing
Promising to bring its visa staff across the U.S. embassy and five consulates in India back up to full strength in the next few months, the U.S. on Sunday said it was launching a “surge” in staffing and a number of other measures to increase visa processing capacity across the country, reports Suhasini Haider for The Hindu.
The statement came even as U.S. missions in Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai and Hyderabad clock up processing times of up to two years for a normal visitor visa for tourism or business (B1/B2). The Embassy also said Saturday (January 21) was the first of several Saturdays when visa offices would remain open across India.
“Our consular teams across India are putting in the extra hours to meet the needs of international travellers and bring down wait times,” said Mumbai Consular Chief John Ballard. “This is part of a mission-wide effort to find innovative solutions to facilitate travel to the United States,” he added.
Apart from increasing the staff numbers and opening on Saturdays, the U.S. Embassy is extending its hours of operation, expanding conditions to offer those who have previously been given visas “interview waivers” or process them through “remote interviews”, and offering slots in other countries for Indians as third country nationals (TCN). In addition, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Julie Stufft had revealed last November that applications from India were being adjudicated by U.S. consular officers in other countries including China, where there isn’t as much pressure on the visa officers.