The United States Embassy in India has announced that it is implementing a new visa processing system throughout India that will further simplify fee payment and appointment scheduling through a new website, available in English and Hindi, at www.ustraveldocs.com/in.
Minister Counselor for Consular Affairs, Julia Stanley, announced at a press conference on September 5, 2012 that beginning September 26, 2012, U.S. visa applicants will be able to pay application fees via the Electronic Fund Transfer (EFT) or with their mobile phones. They can also pay in cash at more than 1,800 Axis bank branches. Additionally, for the first time, applicants will be able to schedule their appointments online or by phone.
Some important features of the new system are outlined in detail below:
- The new website will allow visa applicants to fill out application forms, find out which documents are required, pay visa application fees, schedule an appointment for biometrics collections, and schedule an interview at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate. As noted earlier, the website will be available in English and Hindi
- Applicants will now be able to have their questions answered via telephone, e-mail, or online chat through the website. Call center agents will answer applicant’s questions in Hindi, English, Punjabi, Gujarati, Tamil, and Telugu. The call centers will be open 8:00 am to 8:00 pm Monday through Friday, and 9:00 am to 6:00 pm on Sunday. There are no fees for calling the call center. Applicants can also e-mail in English or Hindi, or chat directly through the new website during call center hours.
- The new system makes more payment options available than before. Applicants will have the option of paying their visa application fees by Electronic Fund Transfer (EFT) or with a mobile phone. Applicants will also be able to pay in cash at over 1,800 Axis Bank branches. Within one hour of payment, applicants will receive an SMS message letting them know that their receipt has been activated and they can proceed with scheduling their appointments. Further, companies and travel agents are allowed to purchase multiple fee receipts for group travel.
- In addition to having their questions answered by phone or online and the now more available payment options, applicants will also be able to schedule their appointments through the new website or call center. In additional to regular appointments, the new global appointment scheduling system also accommodates the scheduling of group and expedited appointments.
- An important difference from the current system is that first-time applicants will now need to schedule two appointments- one for fingerprint collection and one for a consular interview. Prior to their visa interviews, applicants will have to visit an Offsite Facilitation Center (OFC) to submit their fingerprints and a photo. However, most applicants will only need to submit their fingerprints at the OFC one time and applicants who are renewing their visas will therefore most likely be able to skip this step and schedule only one appointment.
- Under the new processing system, passports, visas, immigrant visa packets and other documents will be delivered to 33 document pick-up locations across India within a week at no charge. Applicants will be asked to choose a delivery location when they schedule their appointments. Using the new website, applicants can track the progress of their visa application. When their documents are ready for pick-up, they will be notified via e-mail and/or SMS.
- While many changes will be implemented, some things will not change. It is important for visa applicants to remember that the new system only brings changes to the visa issuance process. There are no changes in the adjudication standards. Visa applicants must still meet the requirements for the visa class for which they are applying and the visa application fees will remain the same worldwide.
As Julia Stanley stated in her official remarks, the United States is committed to providing all visa applicants worldwide with an efficient, transparent, and standardized application process. Presently, visa applicants in India wait fewer than ten days for their appointments, spend less than one hour at consular facilities, and typically have their visas in hand within a week of their interviews. The U.S. Embassy expects the new system to even further increase the efficiency and transparency of visa processing, with fewer applicants needing to visit the Embassy, an OFC, and Consulates to renew their visas in the future.
The new system goes into effect on September 26, 2012.