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America clears air on visa

Calcutta, Aug. 26: India is the No. I exporter of students to the US. And the number of work visas processed — the H-type for temporary employment of skilled workers and the L-type for company transfers — is more than that of the rest of the world put together.

But that does not spare Indians the strict regulation for visas, be it for business, pleasure or education.

At a meeting organised by the Federation of Indian Export Organisations and the Indo-American Chamber of Commerce today, consular officer of the US consulate here Sarah Nelson tried to clarify some of the perceptions regarding visa formalities.

The main concern, Nelson agreed, was illegal immigration. “Under US law, one is innocent until proven guilty, except in this case. You are a suspected illegal immigrant until proven otherwise.”

The number of visa applications from India is going up every year, said Nelson. This year, the number of requests from Calcutta is expected to go up by 35 per cent from last year, said Nelson.

However, the exporters’ organisation and the chamber felt there were “unfair” rejections of B1 and B2 business visas “for no apparent reason”.

The sales vice-president of an export company sought an explanation for having been denied a visa twice in a row despite several trips every year earlier and an irate father denounced the system as a “money-making scheme to lure innocent students”.

Nelson said: “We do face a dilemma in that we have to secure our borders, particularly post-September 11, but we also have to keep our doors open for legitimate travellers, for work or pleasure. The best thing to do is to have as many documents to provide proof as possible, be they e-mails, letters, financial statements or contracts.”

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