US Consulates in India to reopen slots for student visa interviews

Appointments for student visa interviews will open Monday across India, US Counselor for Consular Affairs, Don Heflin, said on Thursday.

Students will be interviewed over July and August at consulates for their visa, for which they can book appointments on the designated website, when slots open on Monday morning. More slots will be added at a later date, said Heflin in a Facebook live session.

He said US consulates had cut back their services due to Covid-19, considering the health and safety of their staff, which affected their ability to provide appointments for student visa interviews.

Answering a query from a student visa applicant on quarantine and Covid-19 vaccination requirements, Heflin recommended checking the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website for quarantine rules.

On vaccination, he said, “Nowhere in our rules for entry to the US does it take into account whether you have been vaccinated or not vaccinated. How you’re going to be treated in terms of what your vaccination means is up to your each individual school. There’s a problem, we all know about it, we all have read about it in the media, it’s something you talk about yourself — which of the Indian vaccines have not been recognized outside of India. So will your college or university accept it or will they require you to get one of the American vaccines? That will be up to the college or university.”

He added, “But you’re talking about going in July or August, maybe the Indian vaccines will get WHO recognition by then, I think there is a big push for that. The other thing that may happen is we may have more medical research that will tell us what the answer is if you have American vaccine on top of Indian vaccine — is that a problem or is it ok. I think there will be more facts coming out in this field.”

He said students enrolled in programs with a start date of August 1 or later can travel to the US on their valid student visa upto 30 days prior to the program start date — mentioned in their I-20 form. If the start date is before August 1, Heflin recommended that students contact their college or university to discuss their options.

He also said that another priority group of visa holders and applicants, besides students, will be those in the H1-B, H4 and J-1 categories. “Unfortunately, the presidential proclamation is clear about applicants for B1, B2, tourist and business visitor visas. Very few of these visas will be issued or receive an approved national interest exception,” said Heflin.

He added that they hope to begin opening appointments at visa application centers for those eligible for interview waiver or dropbox processing.

Answering a query from a parent of a student visa applicant, Heflin said, “We know that a lot of Indian parents are in the habit of taking their children to the US and perhaps stay a while to get them settled in — it’s not going to happen this year. It’s going to have to be the old fashioned way where you say goodbye to them at the airport.”

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