There has been a surge in demand for visas from China and Brazil which has prompted a decision to add 100 more consular staff to offices in these countries.
‘Over the past year we’ve seen an unprecedented rise in visa demand in emerging economies such as China and Brazil,’ said Ed Ramotowski, managing director for US visa services.
Officials have processed more than one million visa applications in China in the last year, and more than 820,000 applications in Brazil for the same period as demand for travel rose with strong economic conditions.
He explained that the State Department has already increased the hours of its consular services in each country but it has not been enough to cope with the surge in demand for visas.
He predicts that extra staff will mean that the US can process more than 2.2 million applications for visas in China, and 1.8 million applications in Brazil by 2013.
Chuck Bennett, the minister counsellor for consular affairs at the US embassy in Beijing, confirmed that the United States handled more than one million US visas for Chinese applicants in the last fiscal year, an increase of 34%.
Donald Jacobson of consular affairs at the US embassy in Brasilia, confirmed that the United States dealt with more than 820,000 visa applications in Brazil in the last fiscal year, a jump of 42%.
Bennett and Jacobson said the United States, which has already increased the hours of its consular services in each country, will start by adding 50 more consular officers in China and Brazil in the next year to cope with demand.
Jacobson said visa demand increased in Brazil as the country experienced strong economic growth and the rise of its currency against the dollar. Walt Disney World and shopping proved to be strong lures for Brazilians, he added.
Bennett said the China’s growing middle class showed an increased interest foreign travel as their economy grew.
Some 160,000 of the one million processed visa applications were Chinese student visas as they represented the largest foreign national group at US universities and colleges, he added.
The change comes as tourism promoters have been lobbying the federal government to address visa processing, especially in Brazil and China, saying difficulty obtaining permission to visit the US deters tourists and hurts the US economy.