‘We are hearing that challenge loud and clear’: US envoy Eric Garcetti amid pushback against Visa backlog

'We are hearing that challenge loud and clear': US envoy Eric Garcetti amid pushback against Visa backlog

NEW DELHI: United States’ envoy to India, Eric Garcetti, has addressed the challenges posed by visa backlogs and emphasized the significant strides made in reducing waiting times for Indian visa applicants. In an interview with ANI, Garcetti expressed pride in the efforts undertaken over the past year, resulting in a three-quarters reduction in visa wait times across various categories, with no wait time except for first-time tourist visas, which have seen a 75% decrease.
“I am very proud of the work we have done in just one year to reduce the visa wait time by three quarters and to have no visa wait time in any of the categories except for first-time tourist visa which is down 75 per cent,” he said.
Garcetti noted the surge in visa applications from Indians for various purposes, including business, education, and immigration. He reiterated President Joe Biden’s directive to streamline visa processing times in India, underscoring the administration’s commitment to facilitating travel and exchanges between the two nations.
He highlighted how at the same time, the US has “increased the number of visas with the same number of people by 60 per cent in a single year, so we are hearing that challenge loud and clear.”
“We are excited about the number of Indians who want to come for reasons from business to students to even immigrant visas people becoming citizens…” Garcetti said.
While addressing the green card backlog issue, Garcetti acknowledged the legislative challenges involved, suggesting that Congress would need to address issues related to legal immigration, green card allocations, and citizenship eligibility. Despite these hurdles, he highlighted the substantial decrease in waiting times due to increased adjudication of visas.
Responding to inquiries about the possibility of US universities establishing foreign branch campuses in India, Garcetti expressed enthusiasm for fostering bilateral educational partnerships. He emphasized the goal of facilitating as many American students to study in India as there are Indian students studying in the US. Garcetti revealed plans for the establishment of joint campuses and programs between US and Indian universities, citing Arizona State University’s announcement of its expansion across multiple locations in India as an example.
“Last year, over 245,000 student visas came from India. Number one in adoptions, number one in all these categories that show 1.4 billion people, a lot of them would love to come to America. And so it’s a good problem to have. But a couple of things were changing…,” he said, on being asked about the green card backlog issue, and why there are mostly Indians who are on the backlog.
Further, on being asked if US has similar plans just like Australia to launch the foreign branch campus of universities here in India, Garcetti said, “Absolutely, it’s my goal to get as many Americans to India as we are seeing Indians come to America…You will see announcements in the coming years of dozens of US campuses”
“We will have joint campuses, and joint programmes here; one Arizona State University announced that there are going to be in more than 10 different campuses around India. To me, this is what the future is about,” he said.
“Indians know more about the US and the US knows more about Indians, taking the world where we can be multiplicative as India times the US, I think the relationship is not just India plus the US,” the envoy added.
Notably, Australia’s Deakin University earlier inaugurated its branch campus in GIFT City, Gujarat.
In January this year, Vice Chancellor of Australia’s Deakin University Iain Martin met Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Gandhinagar, where they had a productive discussion on enhancing collaboration between government and academic institutions about cybersecurity. In a post on X, the Prime Minister welcomed Deakin University to collaborate with Indian universities to promote research and innovation.
(With inputs from agencies)

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