The United States embassy and American consulate generals in Chennai, Mumbai and Kolkata today decided to end the drop-box facility for submitting visa applications.
The American embassy in New Delhi said in a press release that the reason for ending the drop-box facility is that beginning July, US consular sections in India will start collecting fingerprint impressions from all visa applicants, except those travelling on official government business or those who are under 14 or over 79 years.
The change in visa application process will affect those persons currently not required to appear in person for a visa appointment, it added.
At the time of the visa interview, applicants will be asked to electronically scan the index (second) finger of each
hand, and the scanned data will be compared with fingerprint scans at the American port of entry to prevent the misuse of visas, the release said.
This is a worldwide programme, and has already been implemented in more than 150 American consular sections around the world, it added.
'The programme is not targeted at any country or region,' it said, adding that US visa offices in Frankfurt (Germany), Brussels (Belgium), San Salvador (El Salvador) and Guatemala were the first posts to begin the programme in September last year.
All the American visa issuing posts will collect fingerprint data by October 26 this year, complementing the US-VISIT programme in which nearly all visitors to the US, including those from countries eligible for visa waiver, have their fingerprints and photographs taken at the airport on arrival in America.
The last day for submitting applications via the drop-box in Delhi and Chennai is June 30 while for Kolkata it is July 16, and Mumbai July 20.
The release said visa applicants must make an appointment for interview and fingerprint collection. Applicants in New Delhi, Chennai and Kolkata have been asked to make appointments online at www.tttsvisas.com. Those applying from Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Karnataka or elsewhere in Tamil Nadu can also visit the offices of TT Services in Chennai, Bangalore or Hyderabad to take an appointment.
Applicants from Maharashtra, Gujarat, Goa, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh can make appointments online at www.visa-services.com or by visiting the office of the Visa Facilitation Srvice in Mumbai, Ahmedabad or Pune.
The embassy also pointed out that all posts in India experience delays during the spring and summer months, and that this year was no exception.
The longest delays were in Chennai due to the higher volume of applications, it said, but 'delays at all posts are
at least several weeks long'.