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US deputes consulate officials to handle Mumbai visa backlog; UK says it issued maximum visas to des


NEW DELHI: With China yet to reopen fully, Indians have emerged as the biggest globetrotters garnering the maximum visas for several key destinations and the US pulling out all stops to cut the just-less-than-two-years for visitor visa interview cases. Britain last year issued the maximum number of visas to Indians, who accounted for a quarter of the 28.4 lakh visas given in 2022. And several of Uncle Sam’s consular officers from around the world have been deputed to adjudicate visa applications filed in Mumbai. “Last year Britain issued 28,36,490 visas, 25% of those went to Indians, more than to any other country. Indian nationals received highest student visas, up by 73% (over) 2021, most work visas, up by 130%, and largest share of visit visas, 30% of (those issued),” British high commissioner to India Alex Ellis Tweeted on Tuesday. The US has taken several steps to cut visa wait time in India — which had almost touched the 1,000-day mark last year for visitor visa, B1 (business) and B2 (tourist), interview cases. These included making more applicants eligible for interview waiver, sending drop-box cases abroad for adjudication and getting temporary staffers. On Tuesday, the US consulate in Mumbai tweeted: “All hands on deck to reduce visa wait times! Our incredible team of consular officers have temporarily left their regular duties around the world, from state department in (Washington) DC to the consulate general in Okinawa (Japan) to help out with visa operations in Mumbai. Together, we are here to serve.” The wait time for a non-immigrant B1/B2 visa interview appointment in Mumbai is currently at 694 days — down from 999 last November but still just under two years. In Delhi, the current wait period is at 614 days (down from 961 last November). Around that time when wait period was hovering near 1,000 days, Don Heflin, US Embassy in India’s minister counsellor for consular affairs, had said the mission in India will be at 100% (in terms of consular staffing) by summer of 2023. The steps taken have led to the wait period drop from under three years to under two now in India, but still a long wait for B1/B2 interview cases who are either first-time applicants or those whose previous visitor visas expired over four years ago from the date of the new application. The US National Travel and Tourism Office forecasts the total volume of international visitation to the country will increase to 6.3 crore this year, over 21% more than 5.2 crore in 2022. It estimates international visitation to reach 8.2 crore in 2025, surpassing pre-pandemic 2019 level of 7.9 crore. And globetrotting Indians will be a big chunk of these expected numbers.

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