US missions in India adding staff to meet visa demand

Likely to issue 800,000 visas this year; announcements on student visas in India expected in coming weeks

The US embassy and its consulates in India are adding more staff to process about 800,000 visas in the next one year to bridge the gap created due to the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a senior US diplomat.

Some changes in student visas will also be announced in the coming weeks, Donald L Heflin, Minister Counselor for Consular Affairs at the US embassy, told reporters in Chennai on May 3.

Read: US waives in-person interviews for H-1B, student visas through 2022 (December 24, 2021)

“About 800,000 visas are projected to be issued in the next 12 months,” he said. “We opened a lot of slots for processing the visas. We think of eventually meeting the demand of H and L visas.”

US had issued 1.2 million visas before the outbreak of Covid-19 and by 2023 or 2024, and he hoped to reach the same figure by 2024. “Pre-Covid-19, 1.2 million visas were issued. We hope to reach that level sometime in 2023-24,” Heflin told reporters.

Due to Covid-19, visa processing was done by half of the staff and more staff will added to meet the demand, he said. “We are opening a new big building in Hyderabad.”

Read: US to process 800,000 visas in next 12 months, says American diplomat (April 19, 2022)

“We are adding more staff in New Delhi, Mumbai. Already there is 100 per cent staff in Kolkata,” Heflin said and assured that all the consulates already have a dedicated phone number as well as an e-mail address for visa applicants about their appointments.

On Indian visas “put-on-hold” due to Covid-19 pandemic, he said the number is not high. On student visas, he said the embassy is going to make more announcements in the coming weeks.

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