Chinese tourists to get US visa easier

Updated: 2012-01-20 06:50

By Tan Yingzi (

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WASHINGTON -- Chinese travelers to the United States will enjoy upgraded visa service soon as US President Barack Obama Thursday announced a new initiative to boost tourism.

As part of a comprehensive effort to spur job creation, the administration mapped out a national strategy to make the US the world’s top travel and tourism destination.

More than one million American jobs could be created over the next decade if the US increases its share of the international travel market.

“Every year, tens of millions of tourists from all over the world come and visit America. And the more folks who visit America, the more Americans we get back to work,” said President Obama in the White House press release.

The emerging markets such as China, Brazil and India are especially targeted in his plan as tourists from the three countries contributed about $15 billion and thousands of jobs to the US economy in 2010.

The number of travelers from China is projected to grow by 135 percent by 2016 as compared to 2010. In addition, Chinese tourists currently spend more than $6,000 each, per trip, according to the Department of Commerce.

Under the executive order, thenon-immigrant visa processing capacity in China will be increased by 40 percent this year and 80 percent of non-immigrant visa applicants will be interviewed within three weeks of the receipt of application.

In order to achieve the goal,in select circumstances, qualified foreign visitors who were interviewed and thoroughly screened in conjunction with a prior visa application may be able to renew their visas without undergoing another interview, according to the new pilot program of the Department of State and the Department of Homeland Security under the initiative.

The pilot program will also streamline visa processing for certain low-risk applicants, such as individuals renewing expired visas, or some categories of younger or older first-time applicants.

“It will have a huge impact on our workload in China, it can free up about 100,000 slots for new applicants and we can issue more visas to first-time travelers,” Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs Janice L. Jacobs said at the press conference Thursday.

According to the UN World Travel Organization (UNWTO), China is the fastest growing travel market in the world, and is estimated to reach 100 million international travelers by 2020. In December 2007, the US and China signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to facilitate Chinese group leisure travel from China to the United States.

Since the US was among the last countries to gain approval to promote group leisure travel from China, many US travel associations believe that the US has some catching up to do in improving the visa policy and travel service for Chinese travelers.

Though the State Department has made progress in processing non-immigrant visas in China in recent years, handling more than a million visa applications in 2011, a 34 percent growth from the previous year, it still cannot meet the increasing demand.

The complicated and time-consuming visa application to the US has long been a huge headache for most Chinese tourists. Since the bilateral trade ties are growing so fast, the visa issue is regarded as the top concern among Chinese business travelers.