Washington: After Brazil and China, a recently launched pilot programme to waive off interviews for American visas is gaining popularity in India. The US Government hopes to increase tourism from India in the years to come and is thus trying out this plan.
In the brief span of a few months, since its launch in April, the US mission in India processed some 4,000 visa applications under its Interview Waiver Pilot Program (IWPP), the State Department said in a report released yesterday.
China and Brazil were the first two countries where IWPP was launched 20 January, by the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security as part of its effort to streamline processing for low-risk visa applicants.
The pilot programme is for two years.
"The IWPP is very popular in China and Brazil, where over 80 percent of IWPP cases are processed.
State's Mission (the Embassy and constituent consulates) in Brazil processed almost 33,000 IWPP cases between March 2012 and June 2012, while Mission China processed over 20,000 IWPP cases between February 2012 and June 2012," the report said.
"The IWPP is gaining popularity in other key markets, including India."
"Mission India processed almost 4,000 IWPP applications since it launched its programme in April 2012," the State Department said, adding that the programme has been expanded to other countries including Mexico and Germany in July.
According to latest figures available from the Department of Commerce, visitors from India spent a record-breaking $4.4 billion in the United States in 2011, an increase of more than 10 percent from 2010.
Visitation from Indian nationals is expected to increase by more than 30 percent over the next five years, the Commerce Department report said, adding that the annual US travel and tourism exports to India have risen by double-digits in seven of the last eight years.
The State Department is in front of this demand—visa applicants in India typically wait less than a week for an interview appointment and spend less than an hour in the consular section, and 97 percent of visas are processed within 24 hours, the State Department report said.
The State Department said it is taking steps to anticipate surges in visa demand from countries exhibiting strong economic growth.