Nigeria, Brazil and China have been listed as priority nations for US visa applications, consular officials have confirmed.
It is just one of several changes that are aimed at making visa applications easier and faster from various countries around the world with Russian and India also benefitting.
Those applying for visas are advised to plan ahead, especially in countries where the number of applications are on the increase.
An example is Nigeria where the number of visa application increased by 11% in 2011 and so far this year more than 40,000 US visa applications have been processed so far this year.
Consular officer Patty Neary said at a briefing Abuja at the US Embassy said that the average processing time is six months and students in particular should apply at least 120 days before the beginning of their studies.
‘Our goal is that every qualified student visa applicant is able to begin his or her programme of study on time,’ she explained.
The US has also reached an agreement with Russia which will simplify the visa programmes for both Russian and US citizens.
Under the new agreement, Russian and U.S. citizens are eligible for three year multi entry visas with which they can stay for up to six consecutive months. The new change also eliminates Russia’s requirement of getting a letter of invitation although tourists will still need to show advance accommodation bookings.
The US Department of State said that easing the laborious and limiting visa system would facilitate trade and economic cooperation between the two countries, and in particularly improve tourism for the United States and Russia as well.
System are also being made more efficient in India. A new visa processing system will make it easier to schedule appointments and make payments.
Minister for Consular Affairs Julia Stanley said that from September 26, 2012, people applying for US visas will be able to pay application fees via Electronic Fund Transfer (EFT) or simply by their mobile phones. They can also choose to pay in cash at over 1,800 Axis bank branches.
Also, for the first time, applicants will be able to schedule their appointments online or by phone. Under the new system, companies and travel agents will be able to purchase multiple fee receipts for group travel, and scheduling of group and emergency appointments will be made easier.
Within an hour of fee payment, applicants will receive a text message regarding activation of the fee receipt and can proceed with scheduling appointments.
The announcement also highlighted an important change to the visa processing, which requires applicants to make two appointments. Applicants’ fingerprints and a photo will be collected at an Offsite Facilitation Center (OFC) prior to the visa interview at the US Embassy or Consulate.
‘The OFCs will be located at convenient locations separate from the embassy or consulates, to reduce congestion and speed applicant processing,’ said Stanley.
These changes come on top of the Interview Waiver Programme which was introduced in March that allows applicants who meet certain criteria to be considered for waivers of personal interviews.
Stanley added that the new visa processing system is expected to help more applicants to complete all visa requirements without having to visit a US Embassy or Consulate at all.