The low priority of visitor visa (B-1/B-2) processing by the US Department of State is severely hampering the US economic recovery. 6.6 million potential visitors to travel to the United States in 2023 in a loss of $11.6 billion in projected spendingaccording to a new analysis released today by economists at the US Travel Association.
“Outrageous wait times send a message to travelers that the United States is closed for business,” said US Travel Association President and CEO Geoff Freeman. “Unacceptable visa delays are hurting the American workforce and it is past time for the Biden administration to address the problem.”
Wait times for visitor visa interviews now exceed 400 days for first-time applicants from major source markets, a massive deterrent that is undermining America’s global competitiveness, sending millions of potential visitors and billions in travel expenses to other nations.
The recently released National Travel and Tourism Strategy by the US Department of Commerce identifies inbound travel as an economic priority and sets a national goal of welcoming 90 million international visitors by 2027. The lack of urgency of the Department of State on this issue is in direct conflict with the Department of Commerce. objectives
“Excessive visa delays are essentially a travel ban – no one is going to wait 1 or 2 years to interview a US government official for permission to visit the United States,” Freeman added. “Our new research shows that millions of potential visitors will simply choose other destinations, destinations that effectively compete for your business.”
While the US Department of State has made progress in processing other visa categories, such as H-2B and student visas, the agency neglects first-time visitor visa applicants. It is in the economic interest of the United States that the Department of State expedite the interviews, as these visitors represent a significant portion of US travel exports. Spending losses from just three major markets:Brazil, India and Mexico— could total more than $5 billion by 2023.
New poll: Millions will choose other countries
A new Morning Consult survey of prospective international travelers in Brazil, India and Mexico (who do not yet have a valid US visa) found strong interest in visiting the United States, but most said they would likely choose another country to visit if they waited. . times for visa interviews exceeded one year (61% Brazilian, 66% Indian and 71% Mexican).
Only in Brazil, India, and Mexico is the US losing the ability to compete for:
- Brazil: 3.6 million visitors and 15.6 billion dollars in spending
- India: 3.5 million visitors and $13.3 billion in spending
- Mexico: 7.1 million visitors and $4.1 billion in spending
The US Travel Association has called on the Department of State to make first-time visitor visa processing an economic priority and has shared several policy recommendations with the agency to help address this issue. The association’s urgent calls for a solution were echoed by more than 60 bipartisan members of Congress in a recent letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
“With a recession looming on the horizon, the United States simply cannot afford to turn down billions of dollars in visitor spending,” Freeman said. “The Obama administration effectively addressed a similar problem and we call on the Biden administration to do the same.”