Blinken pledges action to address Indian concerns over US visas

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WASHINGTON, Sept 27 (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Tuesday blamed the COVID-19 pandemic for a backlog of visa applications from Indian nationals and said the United States had a plan to address it. .

The comments came during his meeting with Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar. The two discussed the challenges Indians have faced in obtaining visas to work and live in the United States.

US visa services are still trying to clear a backlog after Washington halted nearly all visa processing globally in March 2020 due to the pandemic. Although other nationalities are also affected, Indians make up a large portion of the recipients of H-1B visas and other work visas granted to skilled foreign workers, many of them in the tech industry.

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Blinken didn’t give further details on the plan, but said it would roll out in the coming months.

US visa applicants in India have seen wait times for an appointment stretch to over a year in some cases.

The US Embassy in India said on Tuesday that while visa appointments were open for all categories, waiting times remained “significantly” high due to high demand.

The visa backlog has led to some families being separated for long periods, with some taking to social media to lament their situation.

“On mobility, especially visas, this is particularly crucial, given its centrality to education, business, technology and family reunions,” Jaishankar said during a joint press briefing with Blinken on Tuesday.

“There have been challenges lately, and I have reported that to Secretary Blinken and his team, and I’m confident they will look at some of these issues seriously and positively.”

Blinken said he was “extremely sensitive” to the issue.

The United States’ ability to issue visas has declined significantly during the coronavirus outbreak, Blinken said.

“When COVID hit, demand for visas plummeted, visa fees disappeared, and the system as a whole suffered,” Blinken said.

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Reporting by Kanishka Singh, Simon Lewis and Humeyra Pamuk in Washington, Editing by Rosalba O’Brien

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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