The U.S. State Department has cut the wait times for visas to that country in an effort to increase tourism.
If you’re Chinese or Brazilian, the wait for your U.S. visa may be over. OK, not completely over, but perhaps not as long as it once was.
Against the backdrop of Disney World in Orlando, Fla., U.S. President Obama acknowledged on Jan. 19 the importance of tourism to the American. economy and promised that the waits for visas, which published reports said often took three months, would improve.
“We will always protect our borders and shores and our tourist destinations from people who want to do us harm,” Obama said. “But we also want to get more international tourists coming to America. And there’s no reason we can’t do both.”
So the State Department added workers in key locations and reallocated resources to other consular offices.
The result, said David T. Donahue, deputy assistant secretary with the State Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs, is a marked improvement in processing times.
In some cases, wait times in China are as little as two days, Donahue said, and in Brazil, waits can be as little as a week. Tourism from these countries has increased significantly, which warranted improved handling.
In these days of plentiful information and instant everything, the question may be this: Why do countries require a visa at all, never mind one that’s tough to get?
It’s a matter of security, Donahue said, to ensure that people won’t misuse the visa (overstaying their allotted time here, for example) or enter the country intending to commit crimes or carry out terrorist attacks.
So consulates use a combination of interviews, biographies and biometrics on “each applicant to ensure they don’t pose a threat,” he said.
Visitors from 36 countries do not need a visa to enter the U.S. Some of those countries won’t surprise you – Canada, Great Britain, Switzerland and Spain, for instance – but a couple of them might: Brunei and Singapore, for example.
South Korea is the newest member of the exclusive club, whose members you can see at www.lat.ms/ISwoua.
These visa waiver countries achieve this status because they generally have a visa rejection rate of less than 3 percent, Donahue said, and they participate in information sharing with the United States.
Everybody else will need the ticket to ride.