New Delhi: The US has taken a number of steps to simplify and quicken visa process and target 14 percent yearly increase in travellers from India that would help further strengthen business and political ties, an American diplomat said Friday.
The US consular team in India processed close to 700,000 visa applications in 2011, said James W. Herman, minister-counsellor for consular affairs at the US embassy here.
“We target 14 percent year-on-year growth in visa processing at least for the next 10 years. By 2020, our target is to issue 2.1 million visa for Indian travellers,” Herman said at a media briefing here.
He said there will be increase in all the visa categories but the maximum growth would be in the tourist visa segment.
Between 2001 and 2008, the number of US visas issued to Indians registered a growth of around 4 percent. “In 2009 it declined a bit and in the last two years it has regained the previous growth momentum,” the US diplomat said.
Herman said in a bid to simplify and quicken the visa process, the US embassy in India has increased the number of staff by over 60 percent in the last five years, opened two new consulates and introduced a number of innovative measures.
The US opened a new consulate in Mumbai last year. A consulate in Hyderabad was opened in 2009.
The US embassy in India has taken a number of steps to streamline and simplify visa process after President Barack Obama last week called for a national strategy to make his country the top travel and tourism destination.
Obama said Jan 19 that the state department and homeland security were working together to improve and speed up the visa process for foreign travellers.
Obama has directed agencies throughout the US government to design a programme to make it easier for tourists to visit the US.
Asked whether there is any shift in President Obama’s policy towards issuing visa to foreigners, the diplomat said: “There is as such no change in US visa policy. We are just streamlining and improving the things.”
Almost 3 million strong Indian diaspora live in the United States.
Herman said increasing the number of travellers will help boost business and economic ties between the two countries.
The diplomat said 97 percent of visas are processed within 24 hours, and the wait time for visa appointments is currently 10 days or less.
“Applicants wait less than one hour for services at the embassy and consulates. That means if you come at 10 a.m., the whole process will be over by 11 a.m.,” he said.
There are some 104,000 Indian students currently studying in various US universities and colleges.
In 2011, a record 67,105 H1Bs work visas was issued. The US consular team in India processes almost 65 percent of the world’s H1Bs.