14 April 2011

Congress to examine US visa process for visitors

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Amy Klobuchar, Democratic Senator of Minnesota and Chairwoman of the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Competitiveness, Innovation, and Export Promotio, says America cannot afford to take tourists and other foreign visitors for granted.

US Visa

Senator Klobuchar has expressed concerns about the length of time it takes many international travellers to receive a US visa to visit the United States.

Speaking on the need to improve US Visa services for internaitonal visitors to America, Senator Klobuchar said "This is about jobs.  Each foreign visitor to our country spends an average of $4,000.” She continued, “We are talking about some serious money.  In 2009 alone, spending by overseas visitors supported some 900,000 American jobs, and paid $23 billion in wages to American workers."

The Travel Promotion Act was signed into action by President Obama in 2010, a move which set up a public-private partnership to attract more visitors to the US. However, Senator Klobuchar now claims that this initiative will only succeed if the visa-granting procedures in place are improved.

"It doesn’t do much good to promote the U.S. to foreign travelers when those foreign travelers can’t get a visa for months to visit the United States of America.  In a recent survey, 73 percent of respondents said they would not visit the U.S. if they knew it would take them two-to-three months to get a visa,” Klobuchar stated. “Well, sadly, in several countries, that is how long it is taking."

While the ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization) makes the process of applying for entry to the United States relatively quick and easy for citizens of Visa Waiver Program countries, other foreign visitors do not face quite such a simple process. However, the State Department’s Deputy Assistant Secretary for Visa Services, David Donahue, says the decline in the number of foreign visitors to the United States is steadily reversing.

Speaking on the changes, Donahue said "In 2010, 60 million international visitors entered the United States -- a 17 percent increase from 2006.  Demand for visas climbed at a dramatic pace in the world’s fastest-emerging economies.  Since 2005, visa issuance in China has doubled, and increased by 50 percent in India, 52 percent in Russia, 24 percent in Mexico, and more than 50 percent in the Middle East and North Africa."

The American Visa Bureau is an independent consulting company specialising in helping people with their visa applications to the US Embassy.

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