Indian Consulate in New York Enhances Accessibility and Services for Students and Citizens

Featured & Cover Indian Consulate in New York Enhances Accessibility and Services for Students and Citizens

In response to recent troubling events involving Indian students in the United States, the Consul General of India in New York, Binaya Srikanta Pradhan, emphasized the consulate’s commitment to being accessible to all Indian citizens in need. He outlined the consulate’s goals, focusing on improving connections with Indian students in the region.

“Our visa services are quite smooth and user-friendly. Ninety percent of visas issued are now electronic. The Indian community finds the consulate and VFS responsive. But we are focusing on four priorities now. First is availability to every Indian citizen, second is better connect with Indian students, third is to increase the number of OCI cards and lastly, of course, improving the ease of services,” Pradhan told New India Abroad during a panel discussion featuring VFS Global’s America head Amit Kumar Sharma.

Pradhan recently introduced a significant initiative: the Consulate General of India in New York will now provide emergency services 365 days a year. This move is designed to ensure that support is available continuously, including weekends and national holidays.

In another key announcement, Pradhan revealed faster processing times for Tatkal passports. “At the moment if you are asking for an appointment under the TATKAL passport provision, you might get an appointment in three to five days. VFS Global has agreed to increase its resources, dedicate more people, and increase the number of slots. So, applicants can get an appointment for a TATKAL passport on the same day,” said Pradhan.

Addressing the challenges faced by Indian students, Pradhan explained that the consulate is leveraging Indian-origin influencers to reach out to students and is actively engaging with Indian student associations to understand their concerns. A portal has also been created to offer internships to Indian students in American companies.

“We recently came across a case where an Indian student was repatriated back from the airport because in his browsing history, he was found searching for jobs. The visa status doesn’t allow him to go for employment in the first year of education. This is the new legal system the students are entering in,” Pradhan said, stressing the need to educate students about the Do’s and Don’ts in the US.

Another priority is to increase the issuance of OCI cards. “We want to issue OCIs in the community so that they can remain better connected with their motherland. We encourage the Indian origin people here to have an OCI card,” Pradhan assured.

Amit Sharma from VFS Global, which handles administrative and non-discretionary tasks for visa and passport issuance for various governments worldwide, highlighted their role in enhancing consular services. “Over the years, we have worked with the Embassy and the consulate of India in the United States to conduct various consular camps. In 2021, we did about 20 consular camps across the US. In 2022 and 2023, we did more than 30 consular camps. And in 2024 till date, we have done 20 consular camps,” said Sharma at New India Abroad’s inaugural ‘Travel and Diplomacy’ discussion event.

Sharma elaborated on the organization of consular camps, noting their convenience. “Consular camps are well planned, coordinated and announced in advance. They are usually done over the weekends. So, people don’t have to take a day off. Consular camps are a success and it is one of the critical methods for us to engage with the Indian diaspora,” he added.

Regarding data security, Sharma emphasized, “VFS doesn’t retain any data of applicants. Data and information security is very critical to us.”

VFS Global, launched in Mumbai in 2001, has been instrumental in managing consular services and ensuring the smooth operation of visa and passport issuance processes. Their collaboration with the Indian consulate has been crucial in maintaining service efficiency and security.

Pradhan’s initiatives and the support from VFS Global aim to address the specific needs of the Indian community in the US, especially students. By enhancing accessibility, expediting services, and ensuring continuous support, the consulate is working to provide a reliable safety net for Indian citizens abroad.

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