The Embassy of the United States in New Delhi, India informed the public on September 20, 2005 that it was going to introduce a new system to efficiently process visa applications across India for individuals wishing to travel to the United States.
VSF, an organization that earlier provided application support in the Mumbai area, signed an agreement with US consulates in Mumbai, Calcutta, and Chennai to take over the responsibility to cover all of India as a sole agent from October 3, 2005 for the coming three years.
The VSF will provide to applicants services related to information, appointment, and mailing. The designated financial partner of VSF is HDFC, a bank that is affiliated to the Bank of America. The new costs for visa processing will be lower than before at a total flat-rate of Rs. 276 for appointments set up after October 3. The costs entitle the applicant to online and phone-in information, appointment assistance, mailing of passports with visa stamps. Applicants still need to make the standard payment of $ 100 (or Rs. 4, 400) in addition to their VSF service fees for nonimmigrant visas before booking an appointment. The reason for this is to shortlist genuine applicants. The $ 100 fee is nonrefundable and it is only at the discretion of the US Embassy to grant special permission for the fee to be transferred to another applicant. The payment is to be made at an authorized branch of the HDFC Bank and not at any HDFC branch beginning October 3 (consult the website of the US Embassy in New Delhi for a full list of authorized HDFC branches).
The new system requires applicants to fill out their application forms ONLINE that has interactive features to help applicants enter accurate information. When a particular appointment is confirmed, the applicant will get a PIN number (an access code) as well as 10 minutes of “free-talk” time that may be cashed by calling a national toll-free number. During the “free-talk” time, applicants may request information regarding rules and regulations and track the delivery process of their passports. Until further notice, the toll-free number will be accessed through MTNL and BSNL lines exclusively. In addition to readily accessible information, new US Visa Application Centers are in the process of being set up in Punjab (at Jalandhar and Chadigarh), Andhra Pradesh (at Vijaywada), and Kerala (Cochin).
This new system is expected to significantly reduce the time applicants have had to wait for interviews. The changes that have been initiated will NOT affect previous appointments scheduled before October 3 through the TT (TTS) system in New Delhi, Chennai, Calcutta as well as VFS-arranged appointments in Mumbai. TTS applicants will, however, be requested to reconfirm their appointments, which is expected to speed up their processing time.
It is important to note that it may take weeks before all applicants will be guaranteed shorter waits for interviews under the new electronic system that replaces the TTS that was operational since 2000. Good News for Business Travelers: Chute to Business Visa Centers at a Click of a Mouse! Time is money, as they say. You need you time for other pressing business matters than waiting for a visa interview if you can help it, right? Well, help is not far away.
The US Department of State has introduced yet another electronic system to make your life easier when you intend to travel to the United States for business purposes. You may now save time by accessing the Business Visa Centers introduced in July 2005 via the Internet at the comfort of your office or home. A little playtime with the mouse of your computer is what it takes to get your visa application processed. Your one-stop website to magic up the right US government channels is http://travel.state.gov/visa/temp/types_2664.html. This website will offer all the information you need to know about the application process, contact information for Business Visa Centers, and a series of frequently asked questions complete with the relevant answers.
Businesses in the United States can also benefit from these centers to obtain information about the appropriate visa application process for their guests close to visiting the United States. This up-to-date, real time information system includes details as regards waiting time for visa interviews, processing, application procedures, and programs for businesses. Sit back and punch the numbers while waiting a relatively short time for your visa application. Bon Voyage!