The United States has processed more than a million visas for Chinese people already this year and the waiting time for an interview is down to one week, the latest State Department data shows.
This is a 43% increase on the same time last year and is a result of improvements introduced as a direct result of demand, consular officials said.
The US Embassy in Beijing and four consulates in Chengdu, Guangzhou, Shanghai and Shenyang have hired extra staff, improved workflows and introduced a new pilot programme waiving the in-person interview requirement in certain instances and changing its procedures.
‘We are implementing permanent solutions to keep us ahead of the growing visa demand for years to come,’ a State Department spokesman said.
He added that there has also been a dramatic increase in visa demand from Brazil and Mexico. Brazil has seen a nearly 44% increase in the number of visa applications processed so far in 2012 compared with the previous year and in Mexico, the number of processed visa applications has increased by 36%.
China and Mexico are the only two countries where the US processes more than a million visa applications each year, although Brazil is on track to become the third, the Department said.
One reason is that more tourists are travelling to the US. The country is set to have a record year for visitors, according to the US Department of Commerce. There are growing numbers of visitors from Eastern Europe, Africa and Asia.
Acting Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank said that international visitors’ spending in the US reached $14 billion in May, an increase of 8% compared to the same time last year and tourism number have been growing for the last 29 months.
‘We are on pace for a record setting year with international visitors having spent over $68 billion so far, up 12% compared to last year,’ said Blank.
Blank explained that the US travel and tourism industry will help increase economic growth and job creation. The National Travel and Tourism Strategy is a blueprint for the federal government to get 100 million international visitors each year by the end of 2021.
Under this strategy, international visitors are predicted to spend about $250 billion per year and help to create more jobs for economic growth in communities across the country.