08 February 2012

US visa changes for Chinese tourists announced

After President Barack Obama's announcement in January that the country would extend the US Visa Waiver Program to encourage tourism, changes to how Chinese tourists can apply for a US visa have been announced.

American visa

The US receives more visa applications from China than any other country except Mexico.

Many countries are promoting their cities and attractions to the millions of Chinese tourists venturing abroad for the first time with money to spend and, with America being the most common 'dream destination' for Chinese tourists, it is little wonder America is scrambling to allow more Chinese tourists access to a US visa.

Changes already confirmed to the visa application process include 50 more American members of staff at the US embassy in Beijing and other consulates around China as well as more interview facilities and the option for travellers who have previously received an American visa to renew their visa without an interview.

Applications to the US immigration department from Chinese citizens rose from 400,000 in 2007 to over 1 million in 2010 but due to the country's current long winded visa application process, more Chinese tourists visited Western Europe.

"Many Chinese are scared away by the difficulty in filling out application forms printed in English," said Dun Jidong, marketing manager at one of China's largest travel agencies, Ctrip.

Mr Jidong cited the "inconvenience of personal interviews" which are required for every applicant as another reason why many Chinese citizens are choosing the much easier process of applying to European countries.

"Often an applicant has to stand in a line for nearly a day for the interview," he said.

Mr Jidong said the volume of applications has increased to a point where applicants had to wait as long as three months before even being invited to interview; this was scuppering many plans for travel in the near future.

However, President Obama, keen to capitalise on Chinese tourism, announced plans to relax the visa restrictions for Chinese tourists, who on average spend more than any other nationality on holiday.

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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