The US on Wednesday unveiled a new initiative that exempts interviews for some categories of Indians applicants who are applying for US visas, part of a larger plan to boost business and tourism between the countries.
"The US is committed to providing an efficient and transparent visa application process. We want to encourage more Indians to visit the US," US assistant secretary of state for consular affairs Janice L Jacobs told reporters here.
She unveiled a new programme under which Indian applicants who are renewing full-validity visas, if the visa is still valid or expired within 48 hours, will be exempt from personal interviews by a US consular officer. The categories of Indian applicants who qualify for the interview waiver under the new scheme includes business/tourism, transit and crew members.
It is expected to benefit hundreds of thousands of Indians, she said.
"We look forward to strengthening cultural and commercial bonds between India and the US," stressed Jacobs.
Jacobs underlined that the new scheme was part of a slew of steps initiated by the state department to meet the burgeoning needs for visas in India. In 2011, more than 670,000 non-immigrant visas were processed, marking an increase of more than 11 percent over the previous year. The US has also scaled up consular staffing by 60% in the last six years and have invested over $100 million in expanding consular facilities.
Jacobs is currently visiting India to hold a consular dialogue with senior Indian officials. Jacobs said the discussions will cover a wide spectrum of issues, including aligning visa policies of the two countries, issues relating to the protection of citizens abroad and children’s issues.
Amid apprehensions in India about the US tightening norms for employment visas, Jacobs also clarified that the US has issued 67,105 H1B visas, a record of sorts.
Over 100,000 Indians study in the US, the second largest number of overseas students studying in various American universities.