Home > News > Specials
The Rediff Special/George Iype in Kochi
August 25, 2005
Want to visit the United States?
Hold on to your American dream. It is unlikely you will get to visit the country this year.
The next possible date of appointment for a US tourist visa from India could be sometime in January 2006.
'The interest of Indians in travelling to the US continues to outstrip our abilities to meet the demand. We are exacerbated by fewer staff during the summer,' the American embassy informed rediff.com in a written statement.
The embassy said due to this 'great Indian' interest in travelling to the US, 'we are issuing visas this year at a pace that will exceed the number of visas we issued last year.'
According to the embassy's figures, 304,734 visas were issued in India from October 1, 2003 through September 30, 2004. The number of visas is 261,954 from October 2004 through July 2005.
'At this pace, we will issue more visas for this year than we did last year,' the embassy spokesperson said.
The average waiting period to get a US visa for an Indian citizen is around 90 days. But often, officials said, the wait can stretch up to even six months because of the 'huge Indian rush' at the consular offices.
The embassy said plans are under review to greatly expand visa processing in Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai and Kolkata, 'but it may be two to three years before significant additional capacity is achieved.'
The rush to get US visas has also prompted the embassy to take new measures to speed up the processing time.
If you want a visa, you can now make an appointment online at http://newdelhi.usembassy.gov/applying.html. You can also know the next available date for an appointment.
The visa process has been lengthened after the United States Congress passed a law that made it mandatory for officials to personally interview visa applicants.
For instance, the US consulate in Chennai -- which receives the largest number of H1-B visa applications because of the thriving information technology industry in neighbouring Bangalore, Hyderabad and Chennai -- has only 20 officials involved in issuing visas.
In fact, the outflow of software professionals from the southern Indian states of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka,Tamil Nadu and Kerala to the US has also earned the Chennai consulate a dubious distinction: It has emerged as the American consulate to receive the largest number of fraudulent H1-B visa applications in the world.
Officials said in the last five years, the consulate rejected nearly 40 percent of all visa applications -- most of them H1-B visas -- from the four southern states because the visa petitions were either unverifiable or fraudulent.
The rush in the Chennai consular section has also prompted consular sections in New Delhi to accept non-immigrant visa applications from Chennai.
But the Delhi consular section now accepts out-of-district applications only from persons who speak English fluently and who have not previously been refused a visa.
Photograph: Sondeep Shankar/Saab Press