S Jaishankar yesterday raised the backlog of visa applications with Antony Blinken.
Indian visa applicants require a wait-time of over two years just for getting an appointment, a US government website showed, while the timeframe is only two days for countries like China.
There's an appointment wait-time of 833 days for applications from Delhi and 848 days from Mumbai for visitor visas, shows the US State Department's website. In contrast, the wait-time is only two days for Beijing and 450 days for Islamabad.
The appointment wait time for US visa applications from Delhi
The appointment wait time for US visa applications from Mumbai
The appointment wait time for US visa applications from Beijing
The appointment wait time for US visa applications from Islamabad
For student visas, the wait time is 430 days for Delhi and Mumbai. Surprisingly, it's only one day for Islamabad, and two for Beijing.
Foreign Minister S Jaishankar, who is in the US, yesterday raised the issue of visa applications backlog with the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken. The top US diplomat said he's "extremely sensitive" to the issue and that they are facing a similar situation around the world, a challenge arising due to Covid.
He said the US has a plan to address the backlog of visa applications from India. "I think you'll see that play out in the coming months, but it's something that we're very focused on," said Blinken.
The backlog is due to a reduction in the staff handling the visa process due to lesser applications during the pandemic, said sources. A surge in applications for both student and tourist visas during the post-Covid period led to the backlog as they didn't have adequate staff, they explained.
While the US Mission to India remained open for the majority of the pandemic, the number of applicants that could be accommodated per day was constrained by local limitations including lockdowns and social distancing requirements, said US embassy spokesperson Chris Elms.
He said the processing of all categories of immigrant and nonimmigrant visas, for both first-time and returning applicants, have resumed.
"By prioritizing students this summer to ensure they arrived at school on time, we were able to issue a record of over 82,000 student visas. As a result, more Indian students are headed to the US this year than from any other country," he said.
The US State Department has made aggressive plans to staff up all Mission India posts to their highest levels ever, said the official.
New officers are being hired and trained, and consular facilities are being upgraded while a new expanded facility is set to open in Hyderabad in coming months, he said.
"Consular Team India is also making use of new authorities that increase processing efficiency, including expanded interview waiver authority for previously issued applicants. In practice, this means tens of thousands of appointments are yet to be opened between now and the "next available" date currently showing in the system," said Elms.