US Consulates in India See Surge in Fraudulent Visa Applications

The U.S. Consulate in New Delhi says it is being swamped by unqualified applicants for temporary visas for the United States. Consular officials say unscrupulous consultants are spreading false information that the visa rules have been simplified. VOA's Steve Herman reports from the Indian capital.

In recent weeks, the U.S. Consulate in New Delhi says there has been a surge of unqualified people applying for temporary visas, with the intention to immigrate.

The reason, says U.S. Consul General Peter Kaestner, is false information being spread by self-proclaimed brokers and agents. Kaestner says that there has been no change in visa regulations or procedures.

"There is a perception in certain parts of the country that visas are easy, and that now is the time for people who are intending immigrants to jump on the bandwagon and get to the United States," he said.

Kaestner says some of these agents are claiming they can help Indian citizens short cut the visa process. In other cases, he says, potential applicants are being pressured by these agents to buy false documents.

"You do not have to have a certain type of car, or a certain residence, that people will sell you the documents to prove," he said. "We are urging people to be truthful, to come in with your real documents, and then we can give visas to the legitimate traveler."

The consulate reports that the refusal rate has gone up dramatically in recent weeks, with nearly 60 percent of those applying in the New Delhi area being judged unqualified for visas.

Consulate officials say they are also increasing their vigilance in light of reports of human smuggling from India to the United States, Canada and Britain. This has added to the backlog in the visa process.

Consulate officials say they encourage applications from business people, tourists and students, but the rise in fraudulent requests is making it difficult to handle those from legitimate travelers. The waiting time for applicants to get an interview at some consulates has risen to a month.

In the last fiscal year, U.S. missions in India received 460,000 visa applications. Officials predict the number will hit 600,000 this year.


Steve Herman

A veteran journalist, Steve Herman is VOA's Southeast Asia Bureau Chief and Correspondent, based in Bangkok.

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