WITH MANY Indian students complaining of delays in the visa process, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) on Friday called the ambassadors/ deputy chiefs of missions of eight countries, including the US, UK, Canada, Australia and Germany, and asked them to “streamline” and “fast-track” the process.
“Senior MEA officials dealing with Australia, Canada, Czech Republic, Germany, New Zealand, Poland, UK & USA had constructive discussions with corresponding heads of missions/ senior diplomats of these countries about streamlining student visas to Indian nationals,” the Ministry of External Affairs’ official spokesperson, Arindam Bagchi, tweeted. “They agreed to remain engaged on further easing & fast-tracking the process, since the flow of students has been mutually beneficial,” he said.
Sources told The Indian Express that the MEA officials —joint secretaries dealing with these countries — “strongly raised the issue of student visas” with the ambassadors and deputy chiefs of missions of these eight countries. According to sources, the Indian officials asked them to do “three things” to streamline the process: “ensure predictability, fast-track the visa process, and communicate to the student visa applicants on the timelines”.
Sources said the Indian side, which usually doesn’t intervene in visa issues of foreign countries since granting of visa is considered to be a sovereign decision, was forced to step in as the number of pleas from Indian students was “very high”.
The students, who have already paid their fees for the academic programmes, have been reaching out to these embassies/ high commissions as visa slots are not available or they have been waiting for their visas, and many have complained about the lack of response from these foreign missions.
A western diplomat told The Indian Express that the missions are facing an unprecedented volume of applicants, due to post-pandemic tourism as well as student, employment and business travel. “We have limited resources, and there is an issue of capacity in our mission. It’s not due to the lack of will, but lack of capacity that we are not able to process as many applications as we are getting in tight timelines,” said the diplomat.
The pressure on the US, UK, Australia, Canada and Germany missions is more, since these countries are sought-after education destinations.
While the number of student visa applicants is not available, data shared by the MEA in Parliament in July 2021 showed that there were 2,11,930 Indian students in the US; 55,465 in the UK; 92,383 in Australia; 2,15,720 in Canada; and 20,810 in Germany.
While the Bureau of Immigration, Government of India, has the data of all the students who go abroad on student visas, there is no database on the number of students who are currently awaiting visas.