- The U.S. lags in issuing new visitor visas despite the reopening of borders worldwide.
- The Department of State has resumed processing other visa types but imposes over 400 days of waiting for visitor visa interviews.
- The U.S. Travel Association criticizes the delays, pointing out negative economic impacts and urging the Biden administration to address the issue.
- The Department of Commerce recognizes international tourism as crucial for the economy, with goals to attract 90 million visitors by 2027, but visa delays could hinder this target.
Washington D.C., US–As an increasing number of countries, including most of Europe, Africa, Asia, and South America, open their borders to international tourism again, the United States seems to have a low priority for the issue of new visitor visas.
The U.S. Department of State (DOS) is the department in the U.S. Federal Government responsible for foreign relations and foreign policy.
Visa Processing Delays in the U.S. Amid Global Reopening
While the DOS has started processing other types of visas including such as H-2B (a program that allows U.S. employers or U.S. agents who meet specific regulatory requirements to bring foreign nationals to the United States) and student visas, first-time applicants for a visitor visa (such as B-1(short business trips) and B-2(tourism/vacation) have been given a waiting period of at least 400 days for the visa interview.
At the same time, the U.S. Travel Association (a national, non-profit organization representing and advocating for all components of the travel industry) has openly criticized the DOS’s delay, stating that the U.S. economy is taking a hit.
U.S. Travel Industry Calls for Action on Visa Wait Times
“Outrageous wait times send a message to travelers that the United States is closed for business,” said U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Geoff Freeman in a news release. “Unacceptable visa delays are harming the American workforce and it is long past time for the Biden administration to solve the problem.”
The U.S. Department of Commerce recently released a report identifying inbound international travel and tourism as an economic priority. It also aims to welcome 90 million international visitors by 2027. According to the U.S Travel Association, the delay would prevent 6.6 million visitors and $11.6 billion in estimated spending in 2023 alone.
“With a recession looming on the horizon, the United States simply cannot afford to turn away billions of dollars in visitor spending,” Freeman added in the release. “The Obama administration effectively addressed a similar problem and we call on the Biden administration to do the same.”
What We Think
The significant delay in processing visitor visas in the U.S. is concerning, especially as global travel resumes. Such bottlenecks not only deter potential visitors but also signal a broader hesitation in reopening to international tourism.
With economic recovery on the line, it’s imperative for the current administration to streamline visa processing.
Lessons could be learned from past administrations to expedite solutions, ensuring the U.S. remains a welcoming and accessible destination for global travelers.
Read more in the entire release.