US trying to shorten Indian visitor visa wait times: top official

The Assistant Secretary of the United States Bureau of Consular Affairs, Rena Bitter, shared insights regarding ongoing initiatives aimed at facilitating smoother visa processes for Indian nationals, emphasizing the significant strides made in this regard. According to Bitter, the United States is committed to further enhancing the efficiency of visa issuance for Indian visitors, building upon a remarkable 75 percent reduction in wait times observed last year.

In an interview with PTI, Bitter highlighted the notable increase in the number of visas processed by the Embassy in India, reaching a staggering 1.4 million. She underscored that while virtually all visa categories now boast minimal to no wait times, exceptions persist, particularly for first-time tourists to the United States. However, Bitter expressed optimism, citing substantial efforts underway to address these challenges, driven by the recognition of the pivotal role played by people-to-people ties in fostering bilateral relations.

Addressing inquiries regarding the H1B visa program, Bitter disclosed details about a pilot initiative facilitating H1B visa renewal for Indian residents in the US, thereby eliminating the need for international travel. She acknowledged the invaluable contributions of Indian skilled workers to the US economy and highlighted the successful implementation of the pilot program, slated to conclude in February. Bitter assured ongoing collaboration to streamline visa processes for Indian professionals, reflecting the significance accorded to this matter in high-level discussions between Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Joe Biden.

The H-1B visa program, crucial for US companies recruiting foreign workers with specialized expertise, particularly from countries like India and China, remains pivotal in sustaining technological innovation. The pilot program's inception followed announcements made during Prime Minister Modi's state visit last June, underscoring the commitment to fortify bilateral ties.

Turning to student visas, Bitter underscored India's substantial contribution to the international student body in the United States, with one in four international students hailing from India. She lauded the enriching impact of Indian students on American classrooms, highlighting their diverse perspectives and academic prowess. Bitter emphasized the pivotal role of education in fostering bilateral relations, citing a significant surge in the number of Indian students pursuing higher education in the United States, setting record highs in recent years.

The unwavering commitment to facilitating smoother visa processes underscores the shared goal of strengthening ties between the United States and India, fostering mutual prosperity and academic excellence.

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