The restoration of international travel continues to be a critical part of a full U.S. economic recovery.

The U.S. Department of Commerce National Travel and Tourism Strategy identifies inbound travel as an economic priority and sets a national goal of welcoming 90 million international visitors by 2027. 

However, international travel is still not expected to make a full recovery until 2025, making this goal challenging under ongoing obstacles.

Why it matters: Obstacles like outrageously long visitor visa wait times, limited air routes, aviation workforce and CBP staffing shortages, an antiquated air traffic control system and other hurdles for overseas visitors are delaying the recovery of international inbound travel and harming America’s economy and global competitiveness.

The problem: Wait times for visitor visa interviews exceed 400 days for first-time applicants from top source markets.

  • Low prioritization of visitor visa (B-1/B-2) processing is keeping an estimated 6.6 million potential visitors from traveling to the United States in 2023 at a loss of $11.6 billion in projected spending.

The bottom line: International visitors are choosing other travel destinations, despite a strong desire to visit the United States. 

  • Of potential international travelers from three of our key markets requiring a visitor visa, 61% of Brazilians, 66% of Indians and 71% of Mexicans would likely choose another country to visit if visa wait times exceeded a year.  

Though more must be done, there has been some recent progress and steps in the right direction.

Recent progress

  • May 20-24, 2023 - U.S. Travel welcomed more than 5,000 delegates from 60+ countries to San Antonio, Texas for IPW––stimulating future inbound travel to the U.S.
  • May 12, 2023 - The U.S. lifted the vaccination requirement for international inbound travelers.
  • October 7, 2022 - Bipartisan legislation was introduced in the House through H.R. 9141–the Visitor Visa Wait Time Reduction Act.
  • June 12, 2022 - Pre-departure testing requirement for inbound air travelers was lifted.
  • March 10, 2022 – The passage of the FY22 omnibus provided $250 million in supplemental Brand USA funding, waiving the matching requirement for amounts provided above $50 million.

Additional progress

In December 2022, Congress passed the $1.7 trillion FY23 omnibus bill which included the Omnibus Travel and Tourism Act, securing key provisions that will help restore international travel. These include:

  • Establishing an Assistant Secretary of Travel and Tourism: Housed within the U.S. Department of Commerce, this presidentially appointed, U.S. Senate confirmed position will manage travel policy in the U.S., working to achieve annual goals to grow international travel, increase international business travel and develop a national travel and tourism strategy.
  • Providing Congressional Oversight to Address Visa Wait Times: The bill directs the State Department to report to Congress on its efforts to address 400+ day visitor visa wait times and gives the department flexibility to allocate resources toward consular services.
  • Increasing H-2B Visas: The U.S. Department of Homeland Security remains authorized to increase H-2B visas by exempting returning workers.


Authorize remote interviews over videoconferencing for low-risk non-immigrant visa applicants

Establish a visa interview wait time standard of 21 days and give the State Department the flexibility to transfer funds to consular posts with average wait times above 45 days

Permanently extend interview waiver authority for low-risk visitor, worker and student visas

Create expedited and in-country processing options for B category visa applicants, while retaining the authority to require travelers to leave the country and complete an in-person interview

Expand access to the H-2B guest worker program by including language in FY2024 appropriations that exempts returning workers from the annual H-2B cap

Allocate $3.5 million in FY2024 appropriations to fully fund the new Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Travel and Tourism—a position that will be responsible for developing and implementing a national strategy to expand the travel economy

Set aside at least $60.1 million in FY2024 appropriations for the hiring of additional Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) officers and training

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