NEW DELHI — The U.S. Embassy and U.S. Consulates General in Mumbai, Chennai and Calcutta are pleased to announce a new agreement with VFS to provide visa applicants throughout India with information, appointments, and courier services. VFS, which is currently offering a similar service for the Mumbai consular district, will become the sole provider of visa services to all applicants for U.S. visas in India as of October 3.
The decision to expand our relationship with VFS was based on the cost savings they are offering to our visa customers. The new cost for U.S. visa related services in India will decrease to Rs 276 (including taxes) per applicant for appointments booked starting October 3, for on-line or phone-in information, assistance with making appointments, and for the return by courier of passports with new visas.
It is important for all visa applicants to note that the new visa service system will still require each applicant to pay the standard non-immigrant visa application fee of $100 (Rs 4,400 at the current exchange rate) BEFORE booking an appointment. The visa application fee is non-refundable and may not be transferred to any other visa applicant, except with special permission from the Embassy.
To facilitate this program, the Embassy has expanded its existing relationship with Bank of America, which will collect the fee at a number of locations throughout India through its partner bank, HDFC Bank. The visa application fee, which must be paid before making an appointment, may only be paid at a designated branch of HDFC Bank. A list of the HDFC Bank branches authorized to accept the visa application fee is attached. Other branches of HDFC Bank will not be able to accept the payment. The designated HDFC Bank branches will begin accepting payments as of October 3, 2005.
Under the new system, applicants will be asked to complete their visa forms online using an interactive website that assists applicants in avoiding errors in data entry. Applicants with confirmed appointment will also get a PIN number giving them access to 10 minutes of “free-talk time” by calling a national toll-free number. This talk time can be used to inquire about rules and regulations, and also to track return passport delivery. For the time being, the toll-free number is accessible from MTNL and BSNL lines only.
Applicants will also have greater access to over-the-counter information and assistance at more locations. U.S. Visa Application Centers are being opened at new locations in Punjab at Jalandhar and Chandigarh, in Andhra Pradesh at Vijaywada, and in Kerala at Cochin. (See attached list of service centers)
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.
It is important to emphasize that applicants who already have appointments scheduled through T.T. Services (TTS) in New Delhi, Chennai, and Calcutta or VFS in Mumbai will not be impacted by these changes. Appointments can continue to be made through TTS through September 30. All appointments made through TTS and under the old VFS system through September 30 will be honored. The visa application fees for appointments made with TTS should still be paid through a bank draft, as is the current practice.
TTS customers will soon be asked to reconfirm their appointments. As this reconfirmation process progresses, we anticipate most TTS appointment holders will be able to move their appointment times forward, although it may be several weeks before earlier appointments become widely available. The Embassy wishes to commend TTS for the high standard of service provided to visa applicants during its long association with the Embassy and Consulates’ General.