Remarks of Consular Chief Lawrence Mire at Consular Media Day

Vanakkam!  Welcome to the heart of the U.S. Consulate General Chennai’s visa processing hub.  Today we will show you the simple process for visa applicants.  For most, the application process is the fastest and easiest part of their journey.

But don’t just take it from me, ask the… one lakh Indian students currently studying in the U.S. the 50 lakh Indian tourists who travel to the United States each year or any of the countless Indians enriching our economies working in the United States.

Our primary goal is to facilitate legitimate travel to the U.S.  For study, business, or tourism, this travel benefits both our countries as it has for generations.  Already this year we have sent over two lakh travelers to the U.S.  To put that in perspective, that’s as many as 1,500 visa applications per day.  Upon entering the Consulate, the average applicant waits no longer than 25 minutes and receives their passport with their U.S. visa in less than one week. Our team is so efficient, that more than 95% of visas are printed by the next business day.

I’m very proud of what we’re doing here, but we also have ways to make the process even easier for applicants. How? Well, here are my three tips for making the U.S. visa application process easier: Don’t come if you don’t have to. Although we’d love the chance to talk with you in person, we can save both time and energy through our interview waiver program, also known as our drop box. I’ll talk more about this in a few minutes.

Apply at the right time. Apply early and if possible, during our less busy seasons.

Come at your appointed time. Coming early will not help you complete the process any faster.

Every day, many people come to our Consulate who didn’t need to make the trip. Depending on where you are coming from, this could be a long trip.  Who are these people who can apply for U.S. visas without coming to our consulate? They’re academics, they’re business travelers, and they’re tourists. They already have a U.S. visa that is valid or has expired in the last four years and are applying for that same visa type. Applicants can check their eligibility easily on the visa application website.

So how does this work? You fill out the application form online. Those that came to the consulate after January 1st, 2008 and submitted 10 fingerprints, can drop off their application at one of the 11 convenient drop off locations situated around the country.

And if you got your visa after August 1st, 2004 but before January 1st, 2008 and submitted two prints, you only need to make an appointment at our Chennai Visa Application Center where you can have your fingerprints taken and drop off your application.

H or Individual L visa applicants may also qualify for the Interview Waiver Program if their prior visa was of the same classification and with the same petitioner and is still valid or just expired within the last 12 months.

Additionally, if you are over 80 or under 14 years of age, you do not need to come to the consulate for an interview, and you do not need to have your fingerprints taken.

Does this interview waiver process take longer than if you would just come for the interview? I can assure you that using the Interview Waiver Program and mailing your documents to us is faster and easier than spending two days in Chennai for your fingerprints and interview.

Moving on, apply at the right time. First, you do not need to have firm travel plans before you apply for a visa. If you’re thinking now that you might want to go to Disneyland in June, or if your business has tentative plans for a meeting, come see us now. Please don’t wait until the week before your planned visit.

Students, as soon as you get your I-20, start planning your visa appointment. Students can schedule their visa interviews 120 days prior to the report date mentioned on their I-20 form. Some applications, especially academics or those in highly technical fields, may require additional administrative processing. We don’t want you to miss your first day of school or your riveting conferences! So my 3 tips for this: apply early, apply early, apply early!

Finally, for those that have more flexible schedules, here’s a secret, or as we say in America, some “inside baseball”: the wait time for appointments is much shorter in — write this down — October through March. Even if you don’t plan to travel until July, make it easier on yourself, and come see us in March.

Come no earlier than 15 minutes before your appointment time.  To make the process as efficient as possible for everyone, we only let people in 15 minutes before their appointment time. Believe it or not, it can get hot in Chennai, and I haven’t been here long, but I’ve noticed some rain. We don’t want you braving the elements if you don’t have to. So, if your appointment is at 10:00 a.m., do you come at 8:30 a.m.? Illai!  No!  Don’t come any earlier than 9:45 a.m.  If you do, you’ll spend the time waiting outside in a line.

So, to recap: applying for a U.S. visa is easy. 1. Don’t come if you don’t have to. Take advantage of our interview waiver program. 2. Apply at the right time – early and during our low season if possible. 3. Come 15 minutes before your appointment time. No earlier.

For more information check out our official website, and also be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter. We frequently host live Facebook Wall Chats where anyone can send in questions to be answered by a consular officer in real time.