2012 is a year fraught with difficulty and concern regarding visa issuances from the United States and from the United Kingdom. While there are steps being undertaken to change the trend, each country is taking different paths to accommodate their country’s needs vis a vis the immigration issues prevalent in the country.
For United States immigration authorities in India, there is a clear study being undertaken in order to improve the capacity and processing times for L1 and H1B work visas. These two visas are used extensively by Indian companies in sending their staff to the United States for work purposes.
According to Minister Counsellor for Consular Affairs at the US Embassy in Delhi Julia Stanley, “The consolidation of all the blanket petitions for the L1 visas (for intra-company transferees) at our Chennai consulate a year ago has led to a specialization of some of our staff members in that category. We are now seeing quicker decisions and a slow and steady increase in the issuance rate of blanket L1s and lower refusal rates.”
Comparing 2012 numbers from previous years, the US Consulates in India saw a slight decrease in the numbers issued for L1 visas but the total number of H1B visas increased. To this Stanley added, “In the fiscal year 2012 of October 1, 2011 to September 30, 2012, we issued 130,000 H category visas in India as against 114,000 issued in FY 2011.”
This increase pending final figures is estimated at about 15% while the US State Department annual report for 2011 showed that worldwide, nearly 120,000 H category visas were issued to Indians. This number includes H1-B workers as well as their dependents and spouses.
On the other side of the pond, many Indian students have become stranded in the UK because of the new Border Agency requirement that they reapply for new visas. In a scathing report appearing in the newspaper ‘The Guardian’, a number of London School of Film students from countries such as the United States, India, Russia and Lebanon had their passports confiscated by Border Agency operatives last November. The reason for such move is that they can apply for new study permits.
The Guardian report continued that the London Metropolitan University, which sponsors many of the students and issues the degrees for the film school, had many of their students stranded in the UK for the holidays because of the lengthy delays at the government office even after promises of fast track services. The backlog occurred when the London Metropolitan University was stripped of its ‘higher trusted status’ at the start of the academic year.
All in all, about seven hundred students were stuck because the UKBA had their passports. Even after a petition was signed and support was garnered from London mayor Boris Johnson, the process remained slow and arduous.