False visa papers

Hyderabadis send the highest number of false documents while applying for US visas, according to Peter G. Kaestner, minister-counselor for consular affairs and consul-general of the US embassy.

This continues despite a series of initiatives over the past few years with the State government to authenticate documents especially from universities.

“It is unfortunate that cases of false documentation in Hyderabad is a real problem. Though we don’t keep track of the number of cases, I can say the highest number in India are from Hyderabad,” he said.

Explaining why the US wants to set up a consulate in the city despite the fake documents, Mr Kaestner said of the four lakh temporary visas issued in India last year, about 20 per cent were from Andhra Pradesh.

The visa demand from Hyderabad is expected to go up to between 1.25 lakh and 1.40 lakh in 2008 when the US consulate starts operations here. The consulate will have 15 visa windows against nine in Delhi and 16 in Chennai.

Mr Kaestner was in the city along with a high-level team of US officials to check out the possible venue for the US consulate: Paigah palace, which currently houses the Huda office at Begumpet.

He said the US consulate had yet to identify a location. He said Paigah palace would be a temporary venue. “We want to have our own building and we prefer to have it in Cyberabad,” he said and added they were in touch with the Central and State governments for land in Hitec City.

He said US visa aspirants now don’t need to wait for months for a visa interview as the embassy officials were clearing backlogs and inviting those on the wait list to advance their interview dates.

He said only 40,000 applications were pending and the consulate wants to clear it by December. “We have increased our ability to process visas. The number of interviews each day has been pushed up from 2,500 to 3,000 in all consulates in the country,” he said. “We have sent emails to applicants to advance their interview dates. However, there is no pressure on this account,” he said. He said business visas would be issued in less than a week and people can send their applications online to US consulate offices and prefer any office for interview. Students will have no limitations in terms of visa.
On the increasing demand for H1B visas, he said the US government issues 85,000 H1B visas. “The US government has decided to increase its numbers. But a rough estimate is that 50 per cent of these H1B visas are issued in India,” Mr Kaestner said. On the visa fee, he said the US wanted to reduce it from $150 to $100. “But the Indian government charges $50 from Americans. We have asked the [Indian] government to make it $100 and we would also reduce it,” he said.

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