US to streamline, simplify visas for Indians

The United States is trying to simplify and quicken the visa process for Indian travelers, an American diplomat said here Saturday after President Barack Obama called for a national strategy to make his country the top travel and tourism destination.

US embassy's consular team in India has made streamlining the visa application process its priority to keep up with Obama's executive order on making it easier for foreign travellers throughout the world to visit there, Minister-Counselor for Consular Affairs James Herman said in a statement here.

"We want to make it easier for travelers to apply for a visa to visit the United States," Herman said.  Noting at the Jan 19 unveiling of his strategy that applications for visas were skyrocketing, Obama directed agencies throughout the US government to design a programme to make it easier for tourists to visit the US.

Herman said that over the last five years the US embassy in New Delhi increased staffing by over 60 percent and opened two new consulates in Hyderabad in 2009 and Mumbai in 2011.

Some 97 percent of visas are processed within 24 hours, and the wait time for visa appointments is currently ten days or less, according to the statement from the US embassy. In 2011, the embassy processed close to 700,000 visa applications across the nation.

Underlining the "importance of Indian travelers", Herman said, "Indians represent the highest volume of work visa travelers to the United States and the second highest number of foreign students".

There are some 104,000 Indian students currently studying in various US universities and colleges. Herman said 2011 was a record year for H1B work visas with over 68,000 processed by consular team India alone. "We continue to support the people-to-people ties which define the growing partnership between our nations.

"Each year, we reach out to more students to help them achieve their educational goals. We work closely with the business community to meet their needs, with hundreds of companies members of our business executive programme."

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