US Initiatives Aim to Expedite Indian Visitor Visas, Boost Student and Skilled Worker Opportunities
US Initiatives Aim to Expedite Indian Visitor Visas, Boost Student and Skilled Worker Opportunities

US Aims to Reduce Wait Time for Indian Visitor Visas: Efforts are underway in the United States to further cut down the waiting period for visitor visas for Indians, with a significant 75 percent reduction observed last year, reports US Bureau of Consular Affairs Assistant Secretary Rena Bitter. In a recent interview with PTI, Bitter highlighted that more Indians now have the opportunity to travel to the United States than ever before.

"Last year, the Embassy in India processed a staggering 1.4 million visas, marking an incredible surge... in every visa category, there is virtually no waiting time except for first-time tourists to the United States," she explained.

"We've managed to reduce the wait time by 75 percent over the past year, and we're continuing our efforts. We acknowledge the immense importance of the bilateral relationship, and at its core are the ties between our people, business travels, and family connections. We're actively working in Washington to support the Indian post to meet the escalating demand," she added.

Regarding the H1B visa program, Bitter mentioned that a pilot program, allowing Indians residing in the US to renew their H1B visas without traveling abroad, is set to conclude in February.

"There's a special significance for Indian skilled workers in the United States; they contribute significantly to our economy. Last year, the Indian embassy issued 34 percent more H1B visas, marking a record high. This matter was extensively discussed between Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Joe Biden during their meeting last year.

"In January, we launched a pilot program for the revalidation of H1B visas for 20,000 Indian skilled workers in the US. The pilot has been progressing well, and upon its completion this month, we will reassess to ensure the process is as seamless as possible for Indians working in the US," she elaborated.

The H-1B visa program allows US companies to employ foreign workers in specialized occupations requiring theoretical or technical expertise, with technology firms relying heavily on it to recruit tens of thousands of employees annually from countries such as India and China.

The pilot program was initiated several months after the White House announced the plan during Prime Minister Modi's state visit in June of last year.

Speaking on student visas, Bitter stated, "One in four international students studying in the United States is from India. This is remarkable, not only because they receive top-notch education, which we're proud of, but also because they bring unique perspectives and enrich our classrooms with valuable insights.

"They make our student body more diverse and intellectually stimulating... We're truly excited about this. Ensuring that Indian students have access to education in the United States is a priority for us, and we're committed to meeting the growing demand," she emphasized.

The number of Indian students traveling to the United States for higher education saw a significant increase of 35 percent, reaching an all-time high of 268,923 students in the academic year 2022-23.

Last year, the US consular team in India issued over 140,000 student visas, surpassing any other country and setting a record for the third consecutive year.

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