Headline, Immigration, US-India relations

US to address backlog of visa applications from Indians

Blinken assures Jaishankar “This will play out over the next few months, but we’re very focused on it”

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has assured visiting Indian External Minister S. Jaishankar that it plans to address the huge backlog of visa applications from Indian nationals.

““Bear with us. This will play out over the next few months, but we’re very focused on it,” Blinken told reporters on Tuesday during a joint media availability after an hour long meeting at the State Department in Washington.

Read: Bill to reduce massive green card backlog introduced in Congress (April 11, 2022)

Jaishankar said he had flagged the issue to “Blinken and his team and I have every confidence that they will look at some of these problems seriously and positively.”

“On mobility, specifically visas, this is particularly crucial given its centrality to education, business, technology, and family reunions, he said noting, “There have been some challenges of late.”

“It is also in our mutual interest to facilitate the development and mobility of talent,” Jaishankar said. “We agreed that impediments over this should be addressed.”

“On the question of visas, I’m extremely sensitive to this,” said Blinken. “If it’s any consolation, I can tell you that this is a challenge that we’re facing around the world, and it’s a product, largely, of the Covid pandemic.”

Noting that the US ability to issue visas dropped dramatically during Covid, he said, “We are now building back very determinedly from that, surging resources.”

“We have a plan when it comes to India to address the backlog of visas that’s built up,” Blinken said. “I think you’ll see that play out in the coming months, but it’s something that we’re very focused on.”

Read: House panel approves bill to remove green card country caps (April 7, 2022)

“These connections, these people-to-people ties – whether it’s students, whether it’s business people, whether it’s tourists, whether it’s family – this is what really links us together,” he said.

“And the last thing we want to do is make that any more difficult. On the contrary, we want to facilitate it,” Blinken said. So bear with us. This will play out over the next few months, but we’re very focused on it.”

Blinken also praised the contributions of the Indian-Americans recalling Jaishankar’s recent remarks that the shift in US-India relations was the single biggest change he had observed in decades of service as a diplomat.

“The minister said, and I quote, ‘It did not change only because of government policies; the relationship changed because of Indian Americans. And I couldn’t agree more,” Blinken said.

“We’re grateful to have an Indian American community that does so much to deepen ties between our countries, as well as to shape the fabric of this country,” he said.

“And I’d add that we’re also grateful to communities in India, including those of American origin, that are doing their part to strengthen the relationship for the good of both of our countries and both of our peoples,” the top American diplomat added.

Read: Jaishankar flags US visa concerns; Blinken commits to build back on backlog (September 28, 2022)

US visa services are still attempting to clear a backlog after Washington halted almost all visa processing worldwide in March 2020 due to the pandemic.

Although other nationalities are also affected, Indians make up a large proportion of the recipients of H-1B and other work visas granted to skilled foreign workers, many in the tech industry. Visa delays have also led to long periods of family separation.

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