Faster, easier & hassle-free visas to the US
Posted on September 17, 2012
Worried whether you will be able to get a US visa? For many students and professionals, one of the main hurdles in realising the American dream, is the visa process. It’s a nerve-racking experience for first-timers and a tiring exercise for the others. But, that could be a thing of the past.
The good news is, it will not be so from the last week of this month as the US has put in place a standardised visa processing system.
And why is it hassle-free? The main purpose of the new system is simplification of fee payment and appointment schedules for visa applicants. It could all be done online.
“Beginning September 26, US visa applicants will be able to fill out application forms on the website, find out what documents are required, pay visa application fees, schedule an appointment for biometrics collection, and also schedule an interview at the US Embassy or Consulate,” Julia Stanley, Minister Counselor for Consular Affairs of the US Embassy said.
She explained the new process at length during an interaction with the media here Thursday.
One can access all the information on how to apply for a US visa at www.ustraveldocs.com/in.
The website has information in both Hindi and English for the benefit of Indians. Visa applicants can pay the application fees via Electronic Fund Transfer (EFT) or through their mobile phones. They will also be able to pay in cash at over 1,800 Axis and Citibank branches.
For the very first time, visa appointments can now be made over phone.
“Appointments can be scheduled through our new website or by calling the call center. The new global appointment scheduling system will also offer group and expedited appointments,” Julia said.
One significant change under the new system is that applicants will now have to make two appointments.
“To reduce congestion at our consular facilities and also speed up visa processing, applicants will have to visit an Offsite Facilitation Center (OFC) to submit fingerprints and a photo, which will be located in a separate building outside the Embassy and Consulates,” the Minister said.
In Hyderabad, the OFC is in Gowra Plaza near the Chiran Fort.
Visa applicants can contact the embassy between 8 am and 8 pm on weekdays and from 9 am to 6 pm on Sundays at (91-120) 660- 2222 or (91-22) 6720-9400 in India or 1-310-616-5424 in the United States.
Call center agents in Hyderabad will help with queries in Hindi, English, Punjabi, Gujarati, Tamil and Telugu. People looking to renew their visas, however, can just do it online and don’t have to visit the embassy and as per the Interview Waiver Program (IWP) that was introduced in the country this March.
Some applicants who meet certain criteria will be considered for waivers of personal interviews.
“Under the IWP and our new processing system, an increasing number of applicants will be able to complete all visa requirements without having to visit the US Embassy or Consulate at all,” said Julia.
Post the interview, the applicant will be notified about the delivery of the visa either through a message or an email.
“Under our new system, passports, visas and other documents will be delivered to 33 document pickup locations across India within a week at no charge. Applicants will be asked to choose a delivery location when they schedule their appointment,” she said and hastened to add that one can also get it delivered to their doorstep, by paying an extra charge.
According to the US Consulate Offices across India, the number of non-immigrant visa applications increased by over 11 per cent in 2011.
“Consular officers in India processed nearly seven lakh non-immigrant visa applications, an increase of more than 11 percent over the previous year. Through this new system, we hope to speed up the process,” informed Julia.
September 16, 2012