Foreign Minister S. Jaishankar, in his meeting with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, raised the issue of the backlog of visa applications from India on Tuesday, to which the senior diplomat The US said it is sensitive to the issue and had a plan to address it.
“It is also in our mutual interest to facilitate the development and mobility of talent. We agreed that the impediments on this need to be addressed,” Jaishankar told reporters during a joint media availability with Blinken at the State Department’s Foggy Bottom headquarters here after their more than hour-long meeting.
US visa services are trying to clear a backlog after Washington, US halted nearly all visa processing worldwide in March 2020 due to the pandemic.
Indians make up a large proportion of the recipients of H-1Bs and other work visas issued to skilled foreign workers, many in the tech industry.
The H-1B visa is a nonimmigrant visa that allows US companies to employ foreign workers in specialized occupations that require theoretical or technical knowledge.
The Indian minister did not specifically mention the issue of H-1B visas during the joint press conference.
There is great interest in India’s national education policy and we will explore how it can best serve to expand our partnership, said Jaishankar.
“On mobility, specifically visas, this is particularly crucial given its centrality to education, business, technology, and family gatherings,” he said.
“There have been some challenges lately, and I have brought that to Secretary Blinken and his team, and I have every confidence that they will take some of these issues seriously and positively,” Jaishankar said.
Please be patient with us. This will play out over the next couple of months, but we’re very focused on it,” Blinken said in response to a question about historic visa appointment backlogs now reaching 800 days.
“On the visa issue, I am extremely sensitive to this,” Blinken said.
Blinken blamed the COVID-19 pandemic for the backlog of visa applications from Indian citizens.
“If it’s any consolation, I can tell you that this is a challenge we are facing around the world and it is largely a product of the COVID pandemic. Our ability to issue visas was drastically reduced during COVID,” she said while explaining the self-financing part of visa issuance.
“When COVID hit, visa demand plummeted, visa fees disappeared, and the system, as a whole, suffered. And then of course in visa issuance, even with much more limited resources, we had COVID restrictions on how many people we could have in our embassies at any one time and so on. “, He said.
Blinken said he had a plan to deal with it.
“Now we are rebuilding very determinedly from that emerging resource. We have a plan, when it comes to India, to address the visa backlog. I think you’ll see it in the next couple of months,” he said.
“But it’s something we’re very focused on. These connections, these person-to-person ties, whether it’s students, business people, tourists, family, this is what really brings us together,” Blinken. he said.
“The last thing we want to do is make that more difficult in the country that we want to facilitate,” the US secretary of state said.