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Home / India News / 2007 / May 2007 / May 9, 2007
US Embassy in India alarmed over rush of unqualified visa applicants
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US Embassy in India alarmed over rush of unqualified visa applicants

The Embassy of the United States in India has expressed alarm at the rush of unqualified visa applicants in recent weeks, saying this has created a scarcity of visa appointments for legitimate Indian travellers during the busy summer travel season.

By Vaibhav Varma

New Delhi, May 9 : The Embassy of the United States in India has expressed alarm at the rush of unqualified visa applicants in recent weeks, saying this has created a scarcity of visa appointments for legitimate Indian travellers during the busy summer travel season.

Peter G. Kaestner, Minister Counsellor for Consular Affairs and Consul General, Embassy of the United States of America in New Delhi said the issue is two-pronged.

"We see this in two ways - partially as consumer fraud that people are taking advantage of the hope of some Indians who are looking for better economic opportunities, and are tricking them into spending a hundred dollars plus the consultancy fees, which are considerable, to apply for visas and then they are being refused," he said.

It threatens, frequently, to logjam the entire system, he added. "The other thing is that more unqualified people that come into the queue, it takes the room away from the qualified people. Because we only have a certain capacity at any one time in India."

While the number of visa applications processed is slated to reach 600,000 this year from about 460,000 in 2005-2006, the number of rejected applications has seen a 60 percent rise in New Delhi alone.

In number terms, 2,400 more applications have been refused this year. At 100 dollars per application, that translates into some 9.8 million rupees (24,000 dollars) in duped funds.

The Embassy says that it will be holding a series of outreach programmes across India over the next few weeks to alert gullible citizens, particularly the youth, against individuals and companies who suggest that they can provide a short cut to an American visa.

Visa officials stress that they will not be cutting down on granting of visas to tourists and students visiting the United States. However, vigilance has been stepped up to eliminate illegal smuggling and visa fraud.

This also comes in the wake of the arrest of Indian lawmaker Babubhai Katara while attempting to traffic a lady and her son to Canada on forged diplomatic documents. The incident only highlights a wider malaise.

"Our visa regulations and laws have not changed. In fact we have actually tightened up our fraud and amount of effort that we put into finding fraudulent applications in the last year or so. The MPs scandal is just one example of the kinds of things that are going on in India that we are alert to", said Kaestner.

A lucrative business prevalent mainly in the states of Punjab, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Bihar, human smuggling has been described as an organised crime in India, run with the help of some national travel agents too.

The racket thrives because so many people are desperate to go abroad for lifestyles they know they can never afford in the villages and small towns where they live.

ANI

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