Thursday, January 19, 2012

Facilitating Big-Spending Tourists

Here's a tip - avoid calling it "Visa Express" this time.

Visa Pilot Program:

Today the President announced that the Departments of State and Homeland Security are working together to improve and speed up the visa process for certain categories of travelers.

Since 9/11, the United States has developed an intensive, multi-layered visa screening process, including multiple biographic and biometric checks, all supported by a sophisticated global information technology network. We perform these checks on every visa applicant, without exception.

Under a new initiative, 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. Eliminating interviews for these applicants will save them time and money and encourage them to choose the United States again as their tourism destination. It will also free our resources to interview more first-time applicants.

The pilot program will streamline visa processing for certain low-risk applicants, such as individuals renewing expired visas, or some categories of younger or older first-time applicants. We expect that this will benefit tens of thousands of applicants in Brazil and China; saving them time and money, and encouraging them to choose to visit the United States again. However, given that national security remains this Administration’s highest priority, individuals identified as higher-risk will remain subject to interviews – in addition to the full screening and review all visa applicants receive.

For example, this will make it much easier for many Chinese tourists to renew their visas – a group that spends more than $6,000 per person, per trip, according to the Department of Commerce. Over the course of the year, this policy could open as many as 100,000 interview appointments for Chinese travelers applying for visas for the first time. That increase in tourism could support as many as 1,500 travel and tourism-related jobs.

Consular officers will continue to use their authority to interview any visa applicant as required for national security.


Anonymous said...

That's great! gwb

Consul-At-Arms said...

The devil will reside (and travel and gambol and gyre) in the details. That last line, squarely placing the blame (in advance!) on the consular officer, sends a chill up my spine.

Anonymous said...

TSB: Speaking of travel this duet should carry the day in South Carolina!!

Anonymous said...

How is this different than the interview waiver program? In Mexico, at least if not other locations, people renewing visas can get them without interview if there are no problems in their background. Is this not the case in every post?

TSB said...


How is this pilot program new? I'm not sure. Possibly it just formalizes existing practices that DOS and DHS have worked out between them over the years, or possibly it takes that interview waiver a little further.

Whatever it is, we seem to be going back to the pre-9/11 Visa Express system. At the least, we seem to be giving commercial interests more weight vis-à-vis security.

Anonymous said...

Did you see that mossad has decided that Bibi is full of it?..
and Iran has no weapons program.

maybe someone should tell our political leaders? gwb

TSB said...

Yes, I saw the current Mossad Director came out with that statement (and what's more the former Director agreed). Really, they're just saying the same thing our DNI and SecDefense have said.

Anonymous said...

TSB: Isn't this great! Sarkozy lost 4 french soldiers so wants out of Afghanistan (no theme park there!) but says time is running out to shut down Iran bank and oil exports. Newt might give him a mention to head the UN? gwb

TSB said...

Napoleonland! Thanks, I'm going to post that. If they ever build it, I will plan an invasion.

Anonymous said...

I'll call Dolly Parton.. she will probably sign up to go with you!

TSB said...

GWB, I have actually been to Dollywood and would love to take Dolly to France!

You reminded me of a great article by Joe Bob Briggs (America's most distinguished drive-in movie critic) in which he scientifically rates tourist towns:

He gives Dolly's Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge nexus an 8.5 out of a possible 10, which is tied with Myrtle Beach and exceeded only by the Canadian Niagara Falls.