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Visa interview waiver plan gains popularity in India

September 21, 2012 09:33 IST

After Brazil and China, a recently launched pilot programme to waive off interview for an American visa is gaining popularity in India, as the US Government intends to target the country to increase tourist flow in the years to come.

In the brief span of a few months, since its launch in April, the US mission in India processed some 4,000 visa applications under its interview waiver pilot programme (IWPP), the State Department said in a report released on Thursday.

China and Brazil were the first two countries where IWPP was launched, by the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security as part of its effort to streamline processing for low-risk visa applicants.

Initiated on January 20, the pilot programme is for two years. "The IWPP is very popular in China and Brazil, where over 80 per cent of IWPP cases are processed. State's Mission (the Embassy and constituent consulates) in Brazil processed almost 33,000 IWPP cases between March 2012 and June 2012, while Mission China processed over 20,000 IWPP cases between February 2012 and June 2012," the report said.

"The IWPP is gaining popularity in other key markets, including India. Mission India processed almost 4,000 IWPP applications since it launched its programme in April 2012," the State Department said, adding that the programme has been expanded to other countries including Mexico and Germany from July.

According to latest figures available from the Department of Commerce, visitors from India spent a record-breaking USD 4.4 billion in the United States in 2011, an increase of more than 10 per cent from 2010.

Visitors from India are expected to increase by more than 30 per cent over the next five years, the Commerce Department report said, adding that the annual US travel and tourism exports to India have risen by double-digits in seven of the last eight years.

The State Department is in front of this demand -- visa applicants in India typically wait less than a week for an interview appointment and spend less than an hour in the consular section, and 97 per cent of visas are processed within 24 hours, the State Department   report said.

The State Department said it is taking steps to anticipate surges in visa demand from countries exhibiting strong economic growth.

Lalit K Jha in Washington
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