Overhauling the process of visa applications for travel to the United States, the American Embassy on Tuesday announced a new system under which fees will have to be paid in advance and will be non-refundable and non-transferable.
The system, which will take effect from October 3, is expected to reduce the time visa applicants have to wait for an interview, a senior US Embassy official said.
US visa services throughout India will be provided by the Visa Facilitation Service.
Under the new arrangement, the non-immigrant visa application fees of $100 (Rs 4,400) will have to be paid before booking an appointment for an interview.
The fees, along with Rs 276 towards visa-related services, can be paid in 32 branches of HDFC Bank in 12 cities across the country, the Counselor for Consular Affairs William Bartlett told reporters in New Delhi.
At present, the visa application fees can be paid at the time of interview. This creates a long waiting period as "25 to 35 per cent of applicants do not show up," Bartlett said.
The new visa service system, which incorporates the pre-payment of the non-refundable, non-transferable visa application fee, is expected to decrease the time visa applicants must wait for an interview by encouraging only those applicants who will actually appear for an interview to make an appointment.
While the visa application fees will remain the same, the expenditure for related services will decrease from the current Rs 441. The fees will be non-refundable and cannot be transferred to any other applicant, except with special permission from the embassy, Bartlett said.
VFS will provide over-the-counter assistance to applicants at its existing offices in Delhi, Chennai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Mumbai, Ahmedabad and Pune.
Four more offices will be opened soon in Jalandhar, Chandigarh, Vijayawada and Kochi.