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IT pros may be hit by tighter US visa rules, but students safe

Ehtasham Khan in New Delhi | July 10, 2003 19:23 IST

As part of a series of security measures after the September 11 terrorist attacks, the US has tightened visa issuance regulations that will come into effect from Monday July 14.

The main impact will be the loss of the 'drop box facility'.

Under the 'drop box facility', an applicant for a non-immigrant (temporary) visa was only required to drop the visa application at the embassy or consulate general's offices for processing.

This visa is generally granted to skilled workers and executives of business organisations.

Such people, mostly frequent visitors, did not have to appear for any interview for obtaining visas.

Under the new rules, anybody applying for a non-immigrant (temporary) visa will have to take an appointment and appear for an interview with the consular officer.

Applicants can also use the US embassy web site to request for interviews online.

However, four categories of people have been exempted from the new rule and will continue to enjoy the 'drop box facility'.

The first, those having a valid visa or one, which expired less than 12 months ago.

Second, those above 60 and who have not been denied visas earlier.

Third, children below 14 years of age and whose parents have US visas and are physically present in India.

Four, Central government officials.

However, people who had applied for visas before July 14 would be treated according to the rules existing at that time.

Information Technology professionals may be the worst affected by the new rules.

The rules had been framed post­-September 11 keeping in mind the 'security and integrity' of America, a top US official told rediff.com.

"The new rule is not India specific. It is applicable worldwide," he said.

"There may be some delays in getting an appointment for the interview. We advice people to plan their visits early," he said.

The embassy is hiring more people to tackle the workload that would come up due to the new regulations.

Applicants in south India may have some problems due to the workload at the consulate general's office in Chennai.

Hence, they will now have the facility to apply in the offices in New Delhi and Kolkata as well.

The official insisted that the new rule would not affect the number of visas to be issued.

The embassy in India issued 39,320 temporary visas in 2001, 39,344 in 2002 and 26,764 till April 2003.

Embassy officials said the US may at some point of time, possibly September, even recommend reduction the quota of temporary visas worldwide.

For the last two years, the number had crossed 100,000, a major share going to Indians.

In future, the number is likely to be fixed at 65,000.

The policy change is apparently due to the economic recession in the US.

Officials assured they would take special care that the new rules do not affect students desiring to pursue studies in the US.

There are about 66,800 Indian students in the US, which is 11.5 per cent of all foreign students there.

Over the past two years, the number of Indian students in the US has gone up by almost 58 per cent.

Most students apply for visas from April to August, making it the busiest months for the embassy officials.

US Bureau of Consular Affairs, Visa Services

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