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U.S. visa: U.S. ramps up visa processing, paying particular attention to students




Poorvi Chothani

Managing Partner, LawQuest, Contributor Content

Poorvi Chothani is the founder and managing partner of LawQuest, an employment and immigration law firm. Poorvi, a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, is called to the bar in India and the United States and is a registered and practicing solicitor in England and Wales. She holds leadership positions with the American Bar Association, the American Immigration Lawyers Association and the International Bar Association.

On May 11, Don Heflin, Minister Counselor for Consular Affairs at the US Embassy in New Delhi, went live on Instagram and Facebook to provide an update on visa services with a particular focus on students. This is a summary of the information shared with the public.

The minister started off by saying that the summer was all about visas and that they had made special arrangements for student visas. He confirmed that they issued a record 62,000 student visas last year and expected to break that record this year. In fact, they expect to issue more student visas (F, M, and J, including dependents) than ever before.

Capacity Building

When answering questions about returning to normal service levels, the Minister indicated that this year they expect to be at 2/3 of their pre-COVID capacity and hope to reach 100% of that by the end of 2023. To increase capacity, Mission India is recruiting more officers in addition to training existing staff members etc. They recently added five more visa officers to their consulate in Mumbai.

Special arrangements for students

A large number of student visa appointments will be rolled out in the coming months starting next week. Students currently in the United States will easily get Dropbox appointments as it opens up more appointments for them. Between August 15 and September 1, they will open 15,000 places for students who have already refused. Students who receive their I-20 later than expected could also take advantage of these appointments. Parents who have a visa or are eligible for a Dropbox appointment can travel to the United States with their student children. Appointments for new B-2 visa applicants or those not eligible for Dropbox (collectively call new applicants here) may qualify for appointments that will be added to the system in late August or early September. They will release a large number of appointments from this period until spring 2023 for new visa applicants. Pitfalls and tricks Check visa appointments several times a day, but if you refresh the portal frequently, you may be locked out of the system for 72 hours. Applicants are advised to be prepared to tell their story during the visa interview, which should be similar to an elevator pitch, as visa interviews usually last a few minutes or so. Candidates should be able to explain to the agent why a particular course or level of education makes sense for the candidate’s career goal. Be prepared to explain how the planned education fits into your life. This becomes more important when a candidate changes academic paths or pursues a second degree at the same level as an existing degree. Applicants should bring all their financial documents to the interview, but Mission India officers do not usually focus on the ability to pay for the course, as Indian parents almost always find ways to pay for tuition and living. Neither English tests nor a high level of language proficiency are prerequisites for an interview. However, an applicant who is not fluent in English may find it difficult in the interview to justify their intention to study in good faith. Applicants can use agents to secure visa appointments and assist with the application, but this could be risky as errors or misrepresentations by agents would be attributed to the applicant and could affect the adjudication of visas. Applicants who receive 221(g) notices must take the action required in the notice without delay. This helps officers make decisions quickly. Third-country nationals can apply in India, but it is preferable to apply in the country where one resides. A visa can only be issued within 120 days of the start of a student’s course. One could apply before that, but the case will be held in abeyance under 221(g) and the applicant will be asked to send in the passport at a later date. This helps the applicant to be confident and speak up during the visa interview. Canned answers don’t help but sharing a personal story that influenced the choice of institute would help. Dropbox requests are usually processed within seven days of the Dropbox appointment. Even if the educational institution has waived any test, it would be better to take it as a good score would be an advantage during the interview. AND online




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