U.S. and India Reach Visa-related Agreements

During a State Visit to the United States by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Modi and President Joseph Biden reached three important agreements that, when fully implemented, could positively benefit the ability of foreign biomedical researchers to travel to the United States. International investigators have been facing long delays obtaining visas to come to the U.S., including to attend the Cell Bio meeting.

At the beginning of 2023, the ASCB sent a letter to President Biden, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Richard Durbin (D-IL), chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee detailing the significant delays, often years long, ASCB international members face obtaining the visa interviews they need to travel to the United States. Without these visa interviews, they are unable to attend scientific meetings like Cell Bio and present their work. The ASCB continues to work with business organizations and others concerned about the impact these same delays are having on U.S. business and foreign travel to the United States.

Buried deep in 19 page joint diplomatic statement, the United States agrees to launch a pilot program that would allow visa holders to renew certain visas in the United States. If the pilot program is successful, it would be expanded in 2024 to cover H1B and L visa holders with other categories following later.

Biden and Modi also “directed officials to identify additional mechanisms to facilitate travel for business, tourism, and professional and technical exchanges between the two countries.” This point recognizes the need to expedite the process of reviewing visa applications. Both leaders also agreed to open new embassy consulates. The United States will open consulates in Bengalura and Ahmedabad. India will open a consulate in Seattle and at two other locations yet to be identified. More consulates make it easier for citizens to have access to national government officials. Despite the lack of specifics associated with the diplomatic language of the statement, it is significant that the difficulty obtaining visas rose to the attention of the two national leaders. It is now up to the U.S. State Department to implement the directives included in the joint statement.

About the Author:

Kevin M. Wilson serves as Director of Public Policy and Media Relations for The American Society for Cell Biology. He's worked as the Legislative Director for U.S. Congressman Robert Weygand (D-RI) and as a Legislative Assistant for U.S. Senator Claiborne Pell (D-RI). He has a BA in Politics and American Government from the Catholic University of America. Email: kwilson@ascb.org