Ahead of Modi's US visit, American lawmakers urge govt to address visa wait time issue in India on priorityJune 08,2023
US lawmakers have urged the Joe Biden administration to address the visa wait time issue in India on a priority basis. According to a report by the news agency PTI on Thursday (June 8), during two separate Congressional hearings on consular affairs budget, Senator Bob Menendez (Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee), and Congressman Michael Waltz (Co-Chair of the House India Caucus), asked the US State Department officials why people in India were facing visa wait time up to 600 days.
The request comes just days before Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be in the US from June 21-24.
The lawmakers described India as an important partner where people-to-people relationship played a significant role. "The United States enjoys strong people to people ties with India. India is now part of the QUAD. We are constantly engaging it in geostrategic interests that we have. New Jersey is home to a great number of Indian Americans and their families. I appreciate and applaud the department's heightened focus towards reducing wait times for first time B1-B2 applicants in India?" Senator Menendez said.
"But despite that progress this past year, India continues to face the longest wait times globally with average wait times for an appointment for the first time B1-B2 applicant ranging between 450 and 600 days. Could you please speak to me as to why that is the case? Why does it take up to 600 days for an adjudication" Menendez asked during a hearing at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
The senator also highlighted that Indo-US relationship was one of the most consequential economic diplomatic security relationships "we have in the 21st century."
Lawmaker mentions complaint received from Indian-Americans
Echoing Menendez's concerns, Congressman Michael Waltz said that one of the consistent and painful complaints that he received from Indian-Americans and his Indian colleagues was the wait time (for visas). During a hearing by the House Foreign Relations Committee, Waltz said, "One of the consistent and painful complaints that I receive from Indian Americans and from our Indian colleagues is the wait time, despite the fact that in India, I believe you have the second or third most consular affairs officers."
"The data that I have is that the average waiting period in Mumbai, India was 587 calendar days. With our trade over USD 150 Billion with the consequential relationship with Prime Minister Narendra Modi coming for a state dinner and visit just this month, what are we doing to fix this. Have you looked at any India specific policy fast tracks or issues?" Waltz asked, PTI reported. The Congressman also said that a delay in visa would impact the relationship (between the two countries).
'State Department took several steps to address issue'
At the two separate Congressional hearings, Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs Rena Bitter told the lawmakers that the State Department had taken several steps to address the issue.
"India is a place where we have historically had high demand for visas and there's just a tremendous amount of pent up demand. One of the things about India is that every post is unique, but they also had a really devastating bout with Covid 19 quite late and so that their ability to meet the pent up demand lasted quite a bit longer," Bitter said.
"We have opened appointments for Indian nationals, dedicated appointments in other posts for specific appointments and in all other categories," Bitter added. "We will adjudicate 1 million visas in India this year. Our productivity there is extraordinarily high," she further said.