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US: new measures to tackle visa fraud in India

Indian students applying for US visas must now provide passport information when booking appointments as authorities attempt to tackle fraud in the system. 

Indian passport on top of form.Indian students will have to use their passport numbers when applying for US visas. Photo: iStock.

The US issued more than 600,000 student visas globally in 2023

The US issued a record 140,000 student visas to Indians in the 2023 fiscal year (October 2022 to September 2023), but a black market has emerged in recent years due to high demand for appointments. 

The US embassy in India has announced anyone applying for an F, M, or J student visa must use their passport information when scheduling their visa appointment. 

Going forward, if a booking has been made with an incorrect passport number, the appointment will be cancelled and the visa fee lost. 

The PIE News reported in March on a growing trend of scalpers monitoring appointment slots and booking them on behalf of students or selling them on for a fee, making it difficult for non-paying students to secure appointments. 

The embassy said it had introduced the new measures to “prevent fraud and abuse of the appointment system”.

It is unclear whether this will be enough to completely deter scalpers, who often collect student information before booking slots on their behalf. 

Naveen Yathapu, director of i20fever education agency, said the move sends a “clear message” that the consulate is trying to “clean up” its systems.

Yathapu said he believed that most students applying for F-1 visas would no longer feel the need to go through scalpers, particularly as more appointments are being made available. 

It comes as American ambassador to India Eric Garcetti announced in November that the US plans to recruit more staff and open an additional consulate to support more visa processing.

“We are increasing the staff strength in the city”

Speaking to local press, Garcetti confirmed he had been looking at premises in Ahmedabad. 

“Some more people have already joined the Hyderabad consulate as we are increasing the staff strength in the city and premises are being taken up in Bengaluru and Ahmedabad for setting up new consulates,” he reportedly said. 

In total, the State Department issued more than 600,000 student visas globally in the 2023 fiscal year, the highest number since 2017.

According to data released earlier this year, Indians now represent over 10% of all US visa applicants worldwide, including 20% of all student visa applicants.

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