According to a recent article posted on bloomberg.com millions of tourists visited the United States from overseas to celebrate the 2011 holiday season. These tourists all needs passports and sometimes visas to visit the US. These foreign passport holders spend billions of dollars in the United States. However, groups such as the U.S. Travel Association think that the US could have even more tourists in 2012 and bring in much more revenue.
New York City is the most popular travel destination and gets millions of visitors. However, according the article, New York City and the rest of the United States could get even more tourists if it wasn’t for the US visa bureaucracy. It seems that the current visa system is unprepared to handle the growth in the demand for US tourist visas and business visas. It seems that passport holders in China must wait weeks for visa interviews. Passport holders from Brazil and India who wish to visit the United States must also wait weeks for visa interviews.
The article doesn’t only mention problems, but also offers solutions to the visa problem. The article suggests increasing visa officers in the high- growth markets such as China, Brazil and India. This would help passport holders in those countries get visas more quickly. Another suggestion would be to hold visa interviews for applicants who don’t reside close to US consulates. The third suggestion would be to ease the requirement for in-person visa interviews. It seems that all of these three ideas were incorporated into the latest budget legislation that President Obama signed.
Another idea that could bring more travelers to the US in 2012 would be to expand the Visa Waiver Program. Currently passport holders from 36 countries are permitted to visit the United States without a visa. In order to be eligible for the Visa Waiver Program, countries must have a low refusal rate when granting nonimmigrant visas to American citizens, take steps to improve their passport security, and share law-enforcement and security data with the United States.
One of the problems with expanding the Visa Waiver Program is that the Department of Homeland Security needs to be able to verify the departures of almost all foreign visitors who arrive by air. That presents a great problem because there are many citizens from Brazil, India and China who would like to live in the United States permanently. Once inside the US, they may never return. It is estimated that currently there are millions of illegal immigrants in the US who have overstayed their visas.
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