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Blinken commits to build back on backlog soon as wait time for US tourist visa hits 800 days

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Tuesday assured that the US is "building back" on the backlog of visa applications from Indian nationals after External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar flagged concerns.

"We had constraints from COVID about the number of people we could have in our embassies at any one time etc. We are now building back very determined really from that surging resources. We have a plan when it comes to India to address the backlog of visas that have built up I think you'll see that play out in the coming months," Blinken said in a press briefing.

"There have been some challenges of late, and I flagged it to Secretary Blinken and his team, and I have every confidence that they will look at some of these problems seriously and positively," Jaishankar said in his opening remarks.

The waiting period for Indians looking to secure a visitor visa to the US has gone up to 800 days, according to the website of the US State Department. The waiting period is nearly 400 days for student/exchange visitor visas and other non-immigrant visas.

"I'm extremely sensitive to this," said Blinken as he blamed the Covid-19 pandemic for the backlog.

"Our ability to issue visas dropped dramatically during COVID. And the last thing we want to do is make that any more difficult. On the contrary, we want to facilitate it. So bear with us. This will play out over the next few months but we're very focused on it," Blinken added.

Moreover, Blinken also noted that the partnership between India and United States is one of the most consequential in the world during the joint press conference.

"The partnership between India and US is simply one of the most consequential in the world. It is to address any global challenge that our people face - health security, climate change, food security and upholding the free and open international order. Over the past years, we have made real progress in elevating that partnership bilaterally -- through institutions like QUAD and G20 and international organisations at the United Nations," Blinken said.

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