A bipartisan group of 44 mayors and officials representing American cities and counties came together to send Secretary of State Antony Blinken a letter urging immediate action to reduce visitor visa interview wait times, which persistently remain above 400 days for would-be travelers from key international inbound markets.
The joint letter states: “As a lingering result of the pandemic’s peak, a severe backlog in the processing of U.S. visitor visas is now delaying—in some instances well over a year—the visitation of foreign travelers from key markets who provide much-needed economic and diplomatic benefits to the nation.”
Among the letter signees are mayors of New York, Chicago, Phoenix, Philadelphia, Dallas, Las Vegas, Charlotte, San Francisco, Seattle, Nashville, New Orleans and Orlando. In addition, the mayors of Houston, Miami and Ontario, CA, and a Madera County, CA, supervisor submitted individual letters to Sec. Blinken. Los Angeles City Council also passed a motion recommending federal policy changes to reduce visitor visa interview wait times.
The State Department has taken helpful steps recently, such as opening consulates some Saturdays for additional visa processing and waiving interview for low-risk renewals, but much more work is needed.
The mayors pointed to four recommendations to accelerate visitor visa processing:
- Set clear timelines to restore efficient visa processing. Lower wait times to 21 days in the top countries for inbound travel by April 2023.
- By September 30, 2023, reinstate the Executive Order to provide interview appointments for 80% of nonimmigrant visa applicants within 21 days or less.
- Increase consular staffing and resources in countries with a high volume of applicants and for large events in the U.S. that draw international visitors.
- Extend interview waivers for nonimmigrant visa renewals and apply waivers more broadly to renewal applicants who are considered low risk through 2024.
Visa processing delays are detrimental to restoring the inbound travel sector and the broader U.S. economic recovery. In 2019, 43% of international visitors—and $120 billion in spending—came from countries where a visa is required to enter the U.S. New economic analysis from the U.S. Travel Association estimates a loss in 2023 of 2.6 million visitors and $7 billion in spending due to likely international travelers’ inability to secure a visitor visa.
The group added that increased federal attention to this issue is not only good for the U.S. economy and workforce, but also for our public diplomacy: “When millions of travelers from around the world safely visit the United States, they return home with countless stories of the experiences that only America can provide.”
Please click here to see the letter and list of signers.
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.