Indian immigrants represent the second-largest immigrant demographic in the United States, trailing only behind Mexican immigrants, as per statistics from the Migration Policy Institute. Within this context, Indian individuals seeking B1/B2 non-immigrant visitor visas for the United States are encountering significant hurdles.
Recent data furnished by the Bureau of Consular Affairs at the U.S. Department of State highlights that these visa applicants in India are currently grappling with prolonged appointment waiting periods exceeding 500 days, a situation that has drawn considerable public scrutiny.
The B1 visa is for US business travel, while the B2 covers tourism, family visits, medical treatments, and unpaid social events. Typically, both visas are issued together. As of March 2023, B1 and B2 visa holders can now apply for jobs and attend interviews in the US. In contrast, H-1B visas, which allow US companies to hire foreign workers for specialized roles, take between two and 51 days to process.
The Indian government has taken steps to address the visa backlog and meet increasing demand, allowing Indians to apply for visas at US consulates outside India. Measures implemented over the past year have significantly reduced the previously extensive waiting period, which had reached nearly three years.
Moreover, applicants under 14 or over 80 years of age are exempt from nonimmigrant visa interviews in India.
In parallel to the current developments, the Joe Biden administration has proposed reforms to the H-1B foreign workers program to enhance efficiency, broaden eligibility, and improve conditions for non-immigrant workers.
Last Month Vivek Ramaswamy, an Indian-American Republican presidential candidate, had pledged to overhaul the H-1B program, criticizing it as "indentured servitude," and advocating for a merit-based admission system if he wins the 2024 White House race.
Owing to the extended processing times for B1/B2 visas, a growing number of Indian applicants are also opting for EB-5 visas. the country stands as the world's second-largest EB-5 investor market.