26 April 2012

Obama’s US visa promise exceeding expectations

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America's State Department confirmed today that US visa application processing times from Chinese and Brazilian tourists have decreased from a matter of weeks or months to just days.

US visa

America's State Department has confirmed US visa processing for Chinese tourists is now as little as two days.

While the rest of the world opened its doors to international tourism in the last decade, American tourism continued at the same rate. With a struggling economy beginning to find its feet again, President Obama announced changes to US visa processing policy to allow American tourism to flourish.

Speaking in January, President Obama said America was failing to benefit from newly rich tourists from Brazil and China due in large part to excessive visa processing times, often as much as three months. President Obama said the prolonged wait for a visa was encouraging many Chinese and Brazilian tourists, who frequently ranked the US as their ideal holiday destination, to visit other countries such as Italy or France, where tourist visas are easier to obtain.

President Obama promised to revamp the US immigration procedures in Brazil and France in order to allow more tourists to visit. As Chinese tourists have been shown to spend more on average than any other nationality of tourist, almost $5,000 (£3,240) per person, the move is hoped to provide a much needed boost to the American economy.

Some attributed the US tourism industry's lack of growth to an increased amount of security following the events of September 11th and critics have voiced their concern that President Obama is preparing to loosen that security once more.

However, President Obama said in January America "will always protect our borders and shores and our tourist destinations from people who want to do us harm. But we also want to get more international tourists coming to America. And there's no reason we can't do both."

The President gave the State Department 60 days to reassess how visas in Brazil and China are processed. Since then, more consulates with extra staff have opened across China and Brazil and the benefits are already beginning to be felt.

The State Department's Bureau of Consular Affairs' deputy assistant secretary, David T Donahue, confirmed that tourism from both countries has significantly increased in the short time since the changes were implemented with visa processing times down to as little as two days in China.

Mr Donahue was keen to stress that security had not been compromised in the revamp and consulates were using a combination of interviews and biographies as well as applicants' biometric data "to ensure they don't pose a threat".

The American Visa Bureau is an independent migration consultancy specialising in helping people from Visa Waiver Program (VWP) countries make their ESTA application.

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