U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Geoff Freeman issued the following statement on the U.S. Departments of State and Homeland Security extending the visa interview waiver authority for low-risk applicants, which was set to expire on December 31.
The visa interview waiver authority gives consular officers the discretion to waive in-person interviews for certain low-risk nonimmigrant visa applications. Eligible applicants have previously visited the U.S. and are still subject to the same strenuous background checks and screening that all nonimmigrants receive. Failing to extend the waiver authority would have significantly increased wait times for 40% of visa applicants, costing the U.S. economy billions of dollars in lost traveler spending.
“Visa interview waivers for low-risk travelers are critical to protecting the American economy and reducing the pandemic-era visa backlog that has hindered the growth of international inbound travel to the United States.
“Even nearly four years after the pandemic began, the United States is welcoming 13 million fewer visitors than it did in 2019. Much of that decline is the direct result of stubbornly high visa interview wait times—currently averaging more than 400 days in top source markets. Extending visa interview waiver authority is a major step in increasing global competitiveness and promoting a more seamless, secure travel experience.
“By extending the visa waiver authority, the Biden administration prevented a loss of 64 million visitors and $215 billion in spending over the next 10 years. In 2024 alone, the U.S. will retain an additional 2.2 million visitors and $5.9 billion in traveler spending that would have been lost without the extension.
“U.S. Travel applauds the Departments of State and Homeland Security for their efforts to uphold security, eliminate barriers and facilitate international inbound travel growth.”
Last month, U.S. Travel Association sent a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas urging the agencies to extend the visa interview waiver authority.
U.S. Travel Association is the national, non-profit organization representing the $1.2 trillion travel industry, an essential contributor to our nation's economy and success. U.S. Travel produces programs and insights and advocates for policies to increase travel to and within the United States. Visit ustravel.org for information and recovery-related data.