US visa delays hurt both nations. Fix it
It is in the interest of both countries to work this out at the earliest and offer a reasonable way forward for legal and seamless international travel.
Long before the governments of the two countries established warm bilateral relations, a thriving people-to-people connection built a bridge between the United States (US) and India. Travellers and entrepreneurs, students and software professionals, created a melting pot of cultures, languages and sensibilities — one that formed the foundation of a successful Indian-American diaspora. Yet, Covid and its after-effects had a disproportionate impact on these communities as protracted visa delays effectively instituted a travel ban for new tourists and created hassles for students and professionals. As wait times for interviews at an American consulate in India threatened to top 1,000 days at the close of last year, it was clear that this was a wholly avoidable but vexing wrench in an otherwise smooth relationship — one that frittered away public goodwill and threatened to undo, at least in the ordinary person’s view, the work put into bolstering ties.
Now, there appears to be some movement. This newspaper reported on Thursday that US officials have outlined unprecedented steps taken to expedite the visa process. Nancy Izzy Jackson, the deputy assistant secretary for the South and Central Asia bureau, said that though visa delays were a global problem, resolving concerns in India was the highest priority for the US, from the secretary of state Antony Blinken’s desk down to the bureau of consular affairs to the mission and consulates. This is welcome but will need to be backed with action. In the past, top US officials, even Mr Blinken, have acknowledged that visa delays were a problem, but movement was slow, especially in the traveller and business visa categories — which encompass two of the highest-demand segments. Such protracted lags hurt the economies of both countries and show the bilateral relationship in poor light. It is in the interest of both countries to work this out at the earliest and offer a reasonable way forward for legal and seamless international travel.