The US on Friday said it has a proposal to raise the H1-B visa quota for Indians by 25 per cent and is taking steps to reduce the waiting period for visa applications, particularly students, of this country. It also denied that religion was any criteria for issuance or denial of visa to anybody. Efforts are underway to raise the quota for H1-B (short duration stay) visas for Indians and there is a proposal to hike it by 25 per cent, Peter G Kaestner, newly-appointed Minister for Consular Affairs at the US Embassy, said in New Delhi.
At present, the limit of such visas meant for those employeed temporarily is 80,000. Last year, the cap was 1 lakh. The issue is political in nature and US Congress has to decide on it finally, the official said. Kaestner, who has served at the US Embassy in New Delhi earlier also, said he felt the number would remain inadequate even after the hike. The US H1-B visa is a non-immigrant visa, which allows a US company to employ a foreign individual for up to six years. The H1-B visa-seekers could be those employed temporarily in a speciality occupation or as a fashion model of distinguished merit and ability. Kaestner said the number of Indian students in the US was growing, recording an increase of 30 per cent last year. The US Embassy here is making efforts to reduce the waiting period for visa seekers, particularly students and cut down on the backlog.
To reduce the backlog, the staff at the Embassy are being increased and a new consular section is being opened, Kaestner said. He said the US would soon set up a Consulate in Hyderabad with the External Affairs Ministry giving in-principle approval to move to a building in the Andhra capital. India is second after Mexico among all countries in visa demand. During last year, the US issued 313,000 temporary visas and 30,000 immigrant visas for Indians. During the first 10 months of the US fiscal year (which starts in October), issuance of visas has gone up by 11.5 percent. Refusal rate across India has dropped over the last five years, the US official said. He said, however, that some applicants were faking as students to gain entry into his country and Washington was trying to curb this activity.
Courtesy : Rediff