In moves that will increase travel to the U.S. from China, the U.S. Travel Association commended the announcement by Ambassador Gary Locke of increased visa processing, reduced wait times and a new pilot program that waives interviews for some nonimmigrant applicants in the People's Republic of China. "The State Department is to be commended for its response to the growing demand for U.S. visa applications in China," said Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association.
"I want to thank Secretary Clinton and Ambassador Locke for their efforts in reducing visa interview wait times, increasing the amount of visas processed and developing initiatives, such as the interview waiver pilot program, to make business and leisure travel to the United States more accessible to Chinese citizens," Dow said.
In 2011, more than one million visa applications were processed in China, an increase of 34 percent over 2010. To date in 2012, visa processing is up 48 percent compared to the same period in 2011. Additionally, wait times for interviews have decreased dramatically, with wait times at all posts in China at less than six days this week, the association said.
Also, a new worldwide pilot program is being launched in China that permits consular officers to waive interviews for some nonimmigrant applicants, the association said. This applies only to those renewing their visa within 48 months of the expiration of their previous visa, and it must be within the same classification. The State Department reports that this effort could free up an additional 100,000 interview slots for new applicants.
U.S. Travel noted that on January 19, President Obama announced a national strategy on travel and tourism to increase travel to the United States.
"This is the first time our country has had a national strategy and set goals for the amount of visitors we want to welcome to America," said Dow. "Not only will this increase traffic to America's wonderful destinations and attractions, but nearly half of the travelers will come to attend conferences and tradeshows."