US Embassy announces new systems for visa applicants
New Delhi, September 20
The VFS, which is currently offering a similar service for the Mumbai consular district, will become the sole provider of visa services to all applicants for US visas in India as of October 3. Applicants will also have greater access to over-the-counter information and assistance at more locations. US Visa Application Centers are being opened at new locations in Punjab at Jalandhar and Chandigarh, in Andhra Pradesh at Vijaywada, and in Kerala at Cochin.
The new cost for the US visa related services in India will decrease to Rs 276 (including taxes) per applicant for appointments booked starting October 3, for online or phone-in information, assistance with making appointments, and for the return by courier of passports with new visas, a US embassy official here said.
It was important for all visa applicants to note that the new visa service system will still require each applicant to pay the standard non-immigrant visa application fee of $ 100 (Rs 4,400 at the current exchange rate) before booking an appointment. The visa application fee is non-refundable and may not be transferred to any other visa applicant, except with special permission from the Embassy. The visa application fee, which must be paid before
making an appointment, may only be paid at a designated branch of the HDFC Bank. Other branches of the HDFC Bank will not be able to accept the payment. The designated HDFC Bank branches will begin accepting payments as of October 3, 2005. Under the new system, applicants will be asked to complete their visa forms online using an interactive website that assists applicants in avoiding errors in data entry. Applicants with confirmed appointment will also get a PIN number giving them access to 10 minutes of “free-talk time” by calling a national toll-free number. This talk time can be used to enquire about rules and regulations, and also to track return passport delivery. For the time being, the toll-free number is accessible from the MTNL and the BSNL lines only.
The new visa service system, which incorporates the pre-payment of the non-refundable, non-transferable visa application fee, is expected to decrease the time visa applicants must wait for an interview by encouraging only those applicants who will actually appear for an interview to make an appointment.
Applicants who already have appointments scheduled through T T Services (TTS) in New Delhi, Chennai, and Calcutta or VFS in Mumbai will not be impacted by these changes. Appointments can continue to be made through the TTS through September 30. All appointments made through the TTS and under the old VFS system through September 30 will be honoured.
The visa application fees for appointments made with the TTS should still be paid through a bank draft, as is the current practice. The TTS customers will soon be asked to reconfirm their appointments.