Possession of the highly desirable F-1 visa means MBA and masters students who complete STEM-accredited programs can participate in the Optional Practical Training (OPT) program, enabling them to work in the US for a total of 24 months. After this they can also apply for an H-1B visa to remain in the US.
Most of this year’s F-1 visas were issued in June, July, and August as prospective students prepared for the new academic year. More than 84,000 visas were issued in these three months, peaking in June when 40,224 visas were processed successfully.
Earlier this year, the US State Department predicted F-1 visa issuances would hit a post-pandemic high in 2023. The country has struggled with backlogs since international travel resumed, with many applicants reporting long wait times.
However the US State Department has since brought in several changes, including hiring extra staff, extending opening hours, and increasing interview waiver eligibility. A new consulate has also opened in Hyderabad.
The changes have allowed the US to issue more than one million visas to Indian citizens in total so far this year—beating a goal that was set earlier in 2023.
The State Department also claims that wait times are two thirds shorter than they have been, while the number of applications processed is 20% higher than in 2019 before the pandemic.
“We changed our systems, worked harder, worked smarter and we hit one million visa applications now that we have processed this year,” said Eric Garcetti, US ambassador to India, during an interview with local reporters.
He added that the US aims to continue this pace in support of its relations with India.
“Our partnership with India is one of the United States’ most important bilateral relationships, and in fact one of the most important relationships in the world.”