US drastically reduces visa processing times in China and Brazil

by Ray Clancy on May 9, 2012

Excessive visa processing times were hindering potential tourists

A drive by US authorities to drastically cut the time it takes for people from Brazil and China to get visas processed has been achieved with the timescale down to a matter of days in some cases.

Earlier this year President Barack Obama has promised the country’s tourism industry in particular that he would make it faster for people to get visitor visas. In particular there had been a lot of concern about the months it took for visas to be granted for Chinese nationals as research showed they are the highest spenders.

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

Obama had admitted that the US 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.

Obama 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 both countries.

The State Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs’ deputy assistant secretary, David 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.

Donahue stressed 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.

Figures shows that the number of applications for US visas that were processed in China and Brazil in the first quarter of the fiscal year 2012 increased more than 50% from the same period last year.

In China nearly 260,000 visas were processed compared to 175,000 in the same period in 2011, an increase of 48%. While in Brazil, nearly 280,000 visas were processed in the period, compared to 171,000 in fiscal 2011, an increase of 63%.

In China, visa interview wait times have been reduced to only two days at any of five US visa processing posts. In Brazil, wait times have been reduced to 15 days in Rio de Janeiro and six days in Brasilia, the capital city.

Every additional 65 international visitors to the US generate enough exports to support an additional travel and tourism related job, the State Department said.

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