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Establishing Visa and Foreign Visitor Processing Goals

January 20, 2012

IF YOU MAKE IT EASIER TO VISIT, THEY WILL COME…AND SPEND
On January 19, 2012, President Barack Obama announced that the Departments of State (“DOS”) and Homeland Security (“DHS”) are working together to improve visa and foreign visitor processing and to promote travel for certain foreign travelers in order to create jobs and spur economic growth in the United States (“U.S.”).

The U.S. market share of spending by international travelers fell over 30 percent over the past 10 years, from 17 percent to 11 percent of the global market from 2000 to 2010, due in part to the more stringent security requirements implemented since 9/11 by the U.S. Since 9/11, the U.S. has developed an in-depth visa screening process, which includes numerous biographic and biometric background checks as well as an interview with a consular officer.

The U.S. tourism and travel industry generated 7.5 million jobs in 2010 – with international travel to the U.S. supporting 1.2 million of those jobs. The travel and tourism industry projects that more than 1 million U.S. jobs could be created over the next decade if the U.S. increased its share of the international travel market.

Under the new pilot program, certain qualified foreign visitors who were interviewed and thoroughly screened in conjunction with a prior visa application may be able to renew their visas without having to submit to another interview with a consular officer. Eliminating consular interviews for these qualified visa applicants will save time and money for both the applicant and the DOS and, the Administration hopes, will encourage foreign travelers to choose the U.S. again as their tourism destination. This streamlined visa processing will be offered to certain low-risk applicants, such as individuals renewing expired visas, or some categories of younger or older first-time applicants.

How Might This Pilot Program Affect You?

Visitors and business travelers may be affected in the following ways:

  1. You may experience faster nonimmigrant visa processing, especially at consular posts in China, Brazil, and India;
  2. You may be exempt from having to submit to a consular interview;
  3. Your home country may be invited to participate in the Visa Waiver Program - travel by foreign nationals of Visa Waiver Program participating countries does not require a visa; and
  4. Your home country may be including in an expanded reciprocal recognition program for expedited travel, such as the Global Entry Program.

The White House and the DOS press releases published on January 19, 2012 state that travelers from China, Brazil, and India contributed approximately $15 billion dollars and thousands of jobs to the U.S. economy in 2010. The number of travelers from these three emerging economies is projected to grow by 135 percent (China), 274 percent (Brazil), and 50 percent (India) by 2016. Improving visa processing capacity for China and Brazil is particularly important because of this growth. Chinese and Brazilian tourists currently spend more than $6,000 and $5,000 respectively each, per trip, according to the Department of Commerce. You may view the DOS press release at http://tinyurl.com/7uugvs6, the White House press release at http://tinyurl.com/6rc23t5, and the Executive Order at http://tinyurl.com/7xq8txe.

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