He said the number of visa appointment slots was being increased in a bid to streamline the US visa application process and to reduce the long-waiting time for applicants.
"The US Consulate General is not satisfied with the long-waiting time for visa appointments, as much as the applicants. The headquarters at Washington has sanctioned more resources in the form of money and extra personnel to quicken the process of visa issuance," Kaestner informed the media.
In order to enable better service, the US consulate was strongly urging the applicants, who had obtained appointment slots in 2007, to advance their appointments to this year.
As many as 500 slots are available every day and these can be used to eliminate the backlog in issuing visas, he said. This year alone, over 1,25,000 visa applications were received from all over the country and another 40,000 appointment requests had already been made for 2007, he said.
"There has been an increase of 19 per cent in the number of visas issued in the last budgetary year when compared to the previous year, with 1,20,000 issuances in 2004-05 increasing to over 1,43,000 in 2005-06," Kaestner said.
"The US Consulate receives fraudulent visa applications in which the applicant supplies false documents in the form of school leaving certificates, bank documents and university degrees," Kaestner said. He attributed this to the wrong information being provided to the applicants by people posing as visa agents, about the documents required.
"Even legitimate applicants have to be denied visas because they follow the advice of such agents. In reality, very few documents are required to be attached with a visa application and the specifications are available in the website www.vfs-usa.co.in", Kaestner said.
Voicing concern over this fraudulent activity, he said that the number of fake applications was large enough to intervene in the smooth processing of visas. Over 80,000 students from India were pursuing higher education in America of which 12,000 were from South India alone.
The number of student visas had increased steadily and last year registered the highest number of student visas, Kaestner said. Compared to 2004-05, the last financial year recorded a 20 per cent increase in the number of student visas, he said.
Revealing that Chennai topped the country in the highest number of visa applications, he said the city was way ahead of all other states in eliminating the backlog.