The official also assured that the Biden administration is committed to making sure it processes all the student visas for Indians applying for the fall session.
With the US Consulate set to issue more visas this year, it has also opened a new campus in Nanakaramguda in Hyderabad. The new campus is spread across over 12 acres of land. Previously the US Consulate was housed in Paigah Palace.
The new US Consulate General in Hyderabad is now the biggest Consulate in South Asia, with 54 windows as against 16 in Paigah Palace earlier. It will process up to 3,500 visa applications.
About 1,100 visa applications were processed in a day when the consulate operated from Paigah Palace.
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Lu said the US is committed this summer to make sure it processes all of the student visas for Indians whose school starts this fall.India is now number two in the world in terms of international students coming to the United States.Besides processing student visa, the US Consulate is also prioritising work visas, H-1B’s and L visas, which are the most sought-after by IT professionals from India.
The H-1B visa is a non-immigrant visa that allows US companies to employ foreign workers in speciality occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise.
Technology companies depend on it to hire tens of thousands of employees each year from countries like India and China.
“We are on track to issue more than a million visas this year. This is a record for us along with a record number of student visas and immigrant visas,” US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Donald Lu told PTI in an interview.
There have been growing concerns in India over the long waiting period for first-time visa applicants, especially for those applying under B1 (business) and B2 (tourist) categories.
“We’ve also been prioritising work visas: H-1B’s and L visas. Wait times at some of our consular sections in India, for these visas are now below 60 days. We will continue to make sure that we prioritise visas for workers, as this is vital for both the American and the Indian economy,” Lu said.
“For certain petition-based nonimmigrant work of visa categories, we plan to restart domestic visa renewal for applicants who meet certain requirements, including being physically present in the United States. We plan to have a pilot up and running later this year. This would eliminate the need for these applicants to travel abroad to renew their visas,” he said.
Responding to a question on those Indian IT professionals who are on H-1B visas and have lost their jobs, Lu noted that the Department of Homeland Security recently put out some new information specifically on the point of what these workers ought to do who want to readjust their status.
India-US relationship enjoys bipartisan support in the US, he said.
“I think part of the answer you can find in a really strong diaspora community in the US. For 30 years or more, our relationship is in part driven by Indian Americans who have lived here for decades, but still keep a very strong tie with India,” he said. Over a million people fly back and forth between the two countries.
(With inputs from PTI)