US keen on reducing waiting period for visas for Indians

NEW DELHI:

For the United States, reducing the wait time for US visas for Indians is the “number one priority”, the new US Ambassador to India Eric Garcetti has said, according to reports.

Mr Garcetti is taking charges at a time when Prime Minister Narendra Modi has started preparations to fly to the US on a state visit on June 22. US President Joe Biden is also expected to visit India later this year to attend the G20 summit in Delhi.

 

“I am very excited to be the ambassador here not only when Prime Minister Modi will come to the US but President Biden will be able to come here as well. That’s historic. I am not sure if this has happened before, both leaders visiting each other’s country in a gap of just months,” Mr Garcetti told NDTV in an exclusive interview on Thurdsay.

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On a question whether he would be looking into the issue of long wait time for US visa, Mr Garcetti said, “Absolutely, and the President said, ‘Eric, go fix this’. It’s not just a 10th or 11th priority. It’s the number one priority for me.”

 

“I think visas touch Indians more directly than anything else that America does. And it’s a good problem to have. More and more Indians want to come to the United States, to study, as tourists… We are committed to solving this problem,” the US Ambassador said.

 

“Already, wait times (for visa) are down 60 per cent since the beginning of the year. In January, February and March, we processed a record number of visas. Last year the largest source of student visas came from India than any other country. Hold on, in the next few weeks, when our leaders meet, you will get many announcements. And even before that we are prepared for the student visa season and already the wait time is getting shorter and shorter. We want more Indians to continue to come to America,” Mr Garcetti said.

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The US is on track to issue more than a million visas to Indians this year, a top official had said in April. The US is also prioritising H-1B and L visas, the most sought-after by information technology professionals from India, Donald Lu, the Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia, had said in April.

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The H-1B visa is a non-immigrant visa that allows US companies to employ foreign workers in speciality occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise.

 

Mr Garcetti, while talking about India’s G20 presidency amid the war in Ukraine, told NDTV that India’s G20 presidency is “impressive” as “India is a bridge between the past and the future, between east, west, north, south”.

 

“We stand with India on those aspirations to make sure G20 is not just about the war in Ukraine. We won’t stop speaking out strongly about an unprovoked invasion by Russia. I am sure Indians understand how important borders and sovereignty are. At the same time we know there are relationships that have been there for decades,” he told the television network.