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US state department deputy assistant secretary makes important visa announcements at Silicon Valley meet with Indian American leaders

Last week, Ajay Bhutoria, an Indian-American community leader and entrepreneur, hosted a roundtable dinner discussion in Silicon Valley, on the topic of strengthening the US-India relationship. The event was attended by a high-profile visiting team of US government officials from Washington DC including State Department Deputy Assistant Secretary Nancy Jackson, USAID Deputy Mission Director for India, Karen Klimowski, senior advisor to the assistant secretary for domestic outreach and partnerships Jennifer Miller, senior advisor to the assistant secretary for women’s economic empowerment Radhika Prabhu, and division chief for outreach and inquiries Bureau of Consular Affairs, office of visa services, Jennifer Sudweeks. More than 100 Indian American community leaders, innovators, business leaders and civil leaders attended the event.
The dinner discussion was held at the University of Silicon Andhra, which is the first Indian-American university in the US to offer a master’s programme in computer science.
During the discussion, the participants emphasised the importance of strengthening people-to-people relationships between the US and India to advance shared interests. The ties between the two countries that are rooted in their shared democratic values, entrepreneurial spirit, and cultural heritage, were discussed.
The most significant announcement at the event was on visas. Deputy Assistant Secretary Jackson said that the pilot project that had been announced by the US recently to stamp the non-immigrant work permit visas, including H-1B, in the US instead of applicants having to travel back to India for it would start in the summer of 2023. “We are working in earnest on plans to restart this service for certain petition-based non-immigrant visa categories and we hope to have the pilot up and running later in summer this year. This would eliminate the need for these applicants to travel abroad to renew visas,” she said. The pilot project on domestic renewal of work permit visas in the US has been named PHILEO because the letters include the categories of visas which will be covered namely P, H,I,L,E and O.
The other significant announcement was on student visas – international students applying for US visas will now be allowed to submit their applications 365 days before their programme starts in America instead of the current 90 days. This is likely to ease the pressure on the consular staff in India, Jackson said.
“Visa appointment wait times have significantly reduced in India. We saw those wait times explode because of the pandemic,” division chief for outreach and inquiries Bureau of Consular Affairs, office of visa services, Sudweeks said. “India is a huge market. The demand is always going to be so much larger than in any other country. This was a global problem, not just an India problem, but the problem with India is compounded just by the sheer size,” she added. “Our consular colleagues are working very hard to bring down those wait times. We’ve been surging staff to our embassy and consulates. We’ve been hosting events like super Saturdays, where the consulates are open, and the embassy is open, to process visas, and more.”
Jackson said that ultimately the US remains committed to expanding its partnership with India, facilitating travel to the US, and increasing engagement with the diaspora. Overall, the roundtable discussion provided a platform for Indian-American community leaders and US government officials to exchange their ideas and perspectives on building and advancing US-India the relationship.
“As I look at the US-India relationship, the thing that strikes me first and foremost is that 2023 is a very busy year for India and for the US-India partnership. As all of you know, as president of the G20 this year, India will host upwards of 200 meetings around the country. And we very, very, very much look forward to working closely on the shared priorities with India that we have for the G20 this year. We’re incredibly impressed by the scope and scale of India’s G20 presidency,” Jackson said. She added that as the two countries look at the shared priorities for the G20, strengthening food security is a big priority for both the US and India. Advancing global health is another area where the US and India have had a strong partnership, she said.
Talking about women’s economic security and how it has been a priority for the Indian government and that of the US, Jackson added: “I have spent a lot of time the past two days here in California, talking about some of the initiatives that we’re doing to strengthen women’s economic empowerment in India.”
The US sees much potential for expanded trade and investment. “We have and are really excited about the recent announcement by Boeing and Air India for the order of 220 aircraft. That really does reflect the strength of the US-India economic relationship,” Jackson said.
The Quad through which the US is working with India multilaterally was also discussed. “Here we’re showing the world that when four democracies work together, we can deliver tangible benefits to our people and the region,” Jackson said.



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