Tribune News Service
New Delhi, May 9
American embassy officials today made it clear here that the US encourages "legitimate Indian travellers" but some visa consultants and individuals have been found "misleading" people by underlining that the US has simplified visa rules in what they they believed to be a clear case of "consumer fraud."
Alarmed by the mad rush of what the officials described as "clearly unqualified" visa applicants in recent weeks, the officials said this has led to scarcity of visa appointments in New Delhi and Mumbai for legitimate travellers during the summer travel season.
The situation has become so bad that the American Embassy here is cooperating with the Indian government agencies to arrest people who turn up with false documents and try to get visas fraudulently, thereby clogging up the system.
The officials made it clear that there is no short cut to obtaining an American visa. Intending immigrants are now trying to get non-immigrant visas and are being duped by certain companies and individuals.
"We want to make it clear that no form or person can help you obtain a US visa," emphasised Geoff Pyatt, Charge d'Affaires at the US Embassy.
"We have not changed our visa regulations or laws or procedures in terms of qualifying for a visa. Indians still must qualify just like they did before to increase the availability of appointments," stressed Peter G Kaestner, Consul General at the US Embassy.
"In the light of the rush and the wake of reports on human smuggling to the US and other countries, the US mission in India is increasing its vigilance to eliminate illegal smuggling and visa fraud," Pyatt observed.
Making a pointed reference to US Ambassador David Mulford's unprecedented efforts to eliminate the visa backlog, Pyatt said "we are worried that these individuals and organisations are undermining those efforts by trying to mislead individuals who might otherwise not be qualified for visas."
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