Travel Industry Seeking Immediate Action on Visa Delays Amid Spending Losses

Travel Industry Seeking Immediate Action on Visa Delays Amid Spending Losses

United States Capitol Building, Washington DC, at sunset. (Photo via iStock/Getty Images Plus/lucky-photographer)

On the heels of lawmakers pushing for visa processing improvements, the U.S. Travel Association has called on the State Department to make first-time visitor visa processing an economic priority, even sharing policy recommendations to help resolve the problem.

On Thursday, U.S. Travel shared an economic analysis revealing that the department’s low prioritization of visitor visa (B-1/B-2) processing continues to hamper U.S. economic recovery, preventing an estimated 6.6 million potential visitors from traveling to the U.S. in 2023 at a loss of $11.6 billion in projected spending.

Wait times for visitor visa interviews currently exceed 400 days or well over a year for first-time applicants from top-source markets, U.S. Travel warns.

“Outrageous wait times send a message to travelers that the United States is closed for business,” U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Geoff Freeman said in a statement. “Unacceptable visa delays are harming the American workforce and it is long past time for the Biden administration to solve the problem.”

Data shows that spending losses from just three top markets, including Brazil, India and Mexico, could total more than $5 billion in 2023. In those three countries alone, the U.S. is losing the ability to compete for 14.2 million visitors and $33 billion in spending.

“Excessive visa delays are essentially a travel ban—no one is going to wait 1-2 years to interview with a U.S. government official to gain 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 their business. With a recession looming on the horizon, the United States simply cannot afford to turn away billions of dollars in visitor spending. The Obama administration effectively addressed a similar problem and we call on the Biden administration to do the same.”

In its recommendations to the Biden administration, U.S. Travel is seeking to establish clear timelines and goals, increase staffing and resources in high-volume countries and the authority to waive interviews for non-immigrant visa renewals, among other times outlined here.

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