New Delhi, Sep 15 (ANI): The US Ambassador to India, Timothy Roemer on Monday inaugurated the US Embassy's new Consular (visa) section in New Delhi.
The new facility is the result of a multi-year, 10 million dollar expansion that would permit the embassy to provide faster and better consular service to the Indian community, particularly catering to northern India.
James Herman, Minister Counsellor for Consular Affairs at the United States Embassy, told reporters that new consul section doesn't mean that more visas would be issued, but it would help clear the backlog.
"The new facilities designed here are to allow us the capability to process more visas. It doesn't mean that we are issuing more visas. It is simply a matter of making sure that we can process all the visas applicants who want to apply for visas in India," he added.
"Three years ago the average waiting time in India for a visa appointment was a little bit over six months, that is now down to a well under two weeks. In some place like Chennai for example it's just a two-day wait. So the point is to give us the capability of processing as many visas as there are applicants," Herman said.
The new facility doubles the waiting area, triples customer seating, adds a modern queuing system to guide customers through the visa process and adds many interviewing windows to ensure that visa applicants and American citizens can speak to an officer more quickly and in a convenient, modern environment.
The demand for consular services in India has surged to new levels, mirroring the deepening strategic partnership. Over the past five years, the issuance of U.S. non-immigrant visas in India have more than doubled from approximately 275,000 in 2003 to approximately 560,000 in 2008.
Speaking on the recent travel advisory issued to the Americans travelling to India, Herman said that it is routine and just meant for the safety of US citizens.
"The travel alert is for a wider audience. It's basically says the same things as last two warden messages. So if you look at it it's the way we communicate with Americans who travel...it's a fair assessment," he added.
The travel alert recently posted on US embassy website states that last years Mumbai terror attacks provides a vivid reminder that hotels and other public places being attractive targets for militant groups.
The advisory ask US citizens to maintain heightened situational awareness and a low profile. (ANI)