1.2 million visas were issued before Covid and expect to reach that level sometime in 2023-24, says Minister-Counselor
The United States embassy in India is likely to process about 8 lakh visas over the next 12 months, a senior diplomat said in Chennai on Tuesday. Addressing reporters here, Minister Counselor for Consular Affairs at the US embassy, Donald L Heflin said, “8,00,000 visas are projected to be issued in the next 12 months. We opened a lot of slots for processing the visas. We think of eventually meeting the demand for H and L visas.”
Asked about the total number of visas issued before the outbreak of COVID-19, he said 1.2 million visas were issued. He also expressed hope that the visa processing would reach pre-COVID-19 levels sometime in 2023 or 2024. “Pre-COVID-19 1.2 million visas were issued. We hope to reach that level sometime in 2023-24.,” Heflin told the news agency PTI.
The consular offices were also ramping up staffing across India and the visa processing would be supported by the rise in headcount at these offices. “.. Visa processing was done by 50 percent of the staff (due to COVID-19). We will be adding more employees to our offices..” “We are opening a new big building in Hyderabad. We are adding more staff in New Delhi, and Mumbai. Already there is 100 percent staff in Kolkata,” he noted.
To a question about the Consulate setting up a dedicated helpline to address queries raised by visa applicants, the Minister Counselor said all the consulates already have a dedicated phone number as well as an e-mail address which visa applicants can contact for assistance with their appointments.
Queried whether Indian visas were ‘put on hold’ due to the COVID-19 pandemic, he said, ‘not that high (number of visas were put on hold). But keep an eye out as we are going to make more announcements on student visas in the coming weeks.
[with PTI inputs]
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