50,000 Indians have already used option of third country visa application in 2023

There’s some good news for those facing a year or more delays in getting US visas. The option of going to another country for a visa interview has emerged a faster option for many people. In fact, in the first few months of this year; already over 50,000 Indians have taken advantage of this option to get their visas on a fast track. “We’re fine with Indians travelling to third countries when applying for visa interviews. But this will have to be a country where you can go visa free or the government of that country will give you a visa,” Donald L Heflin, minister-counselor for consular affairs at the Embassy of the US in New Delhi, told Times of India in an exclusive interview. He added that the facility of applying at third countries was particularly popular among Indian applicants of business visas in the categories of B-1; H-1B and L-1.
Significantly, the US Embassy and consulates in India had issued a record number of 1,25,000 student visas last year. “We hope to do similar numbers this year. But how strong the demand for student visas will be, is beyond our control. It depends on several factors including how early American universities and colleges get their admission forms out and how good a job students are doing in in presenting their case,” Heflin said.
On the issue of students whose visas were rejected and who were not able to schedule second or third visa interviews and were facing backlogs; Heflin said that the same policy will be followed this year as last time. “The second interview opportunity for such applicants, whose student visa was rejected one time, will be at the end of the season after others. The first timers, or ‘freshers’ as they are called in India, will get the opportunity first and we will then go to people who were turned down before,” the minister-counselor said. He added that despite all incorrect information that may have been shared on this issue from different unofficial sources, the best chance for students to get a visa approved is the first chance and the second best is the second chance. “Everyone has one chance, but after that it goes down. Applications for student visas three, four or five times don’t go too well,” he said.
The huge rush for US student visas later this year is, however, not likely to have an impact on other categories such as first time B-1 and B-2 tourist and visitor visas; for which applicants are currently facing long delays. “We will make sure we do other categories in fairly large numbers even when there is a high demand for student visas. We are also getting assistance from Washington, which is very helpful; and the impact of doing student visas will not be very noticeable on other categories,” he said.
The US State Department has recently announced a pilot project for stamping certain category of visas in the US; a move that is likely to help reduce the backlog for other visa categories in India. “The pilot for this programme will start this summer though we don’t yet know when it will become fully operational. But when it does, tens of thousands of visa slots will become free here in India and we will be able to devote attention to whatever categories have lot of wait time. Right now, that category is first time tourist and business visa applications,” Heflin said. He added that the system of renewing certain categories of visas in the US, without the requirement for the candidates to travel to India for stamping their passports, was followed several years back and now will again be a big positive policy change for several Indian work visa holders.
Heflin also said that for work visa categories such as the H and L, the wait time has been considerably reduced compared to what it was one and two years ago. “We have brought down the backlog for these categories and the wait time is quite short now,” he said.

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