NEW DELHI: The waiting period for issuance of American visas is expected to see a significant fall by summer of 2023 and the number of visa applications is projected to reach around 1.2 million, a senior official of the US embassy said on Thursday.
"India is number one priority for Washington (for issuance of visas). Our aim is to bring the situation to the pre-Covid-19 level by the middle of next year," the official said.
India has been one of the very few countries where applications for US visas saw a major upswing after coronavirus-related travel restrictions were lifted.
Considering the long wait time for grant of visas, the US is also rolling out a series of initiatives including hiring of more personnel and increasing the "drop box" facilities, the official said.
The plan is to issue around one lakh visas every month.
The official said the US has already identified H (H1B) and L category visas for Indians as its priority and nearly 1,00,000 slots were released recently for those wanting to renew the visas.
The wait time for certain categories has already been brought down to around nine months from earlier 450 days.
The official said the wait time for B1, B2 (business and tourism) visas is also being brought down from around 9 months.
The official also said that India is expected to move to the number two place from current number three in terms of the number of visas being issued by the US.
Currently, Mexico and China are ahead of India.
The US will initially focus on applicants using the "drop box" facility.
The official said priority is also being accorded to cut the waiting time for the students' visas, especially for those looking for renewal of their visas.
The process used to apply for renewal of a US visa without the visa interview is known as the drop box facility.
Broadly, the applicants having a US visa within a span of the last four years are eligible for drop box facility.
The US issued around 82,000 visas in the last one year.
New Delhi has been taking up with Washington the issue of long waiting periods for US visas.
"We are looking at 1.1 to 1.2 million visa applications to Indians by next summer," the official said.