Lancer Insurance
Friday, May 24, 2024
US Travel Association

US Travel Association (USTA) economists are sounding the alarm on the US Department of State’s low prioritization of visitor visa (B-1/B-2) processing, which they assert is severely hindering the US economic recovery. According to new analysis by USTA economists, the delay is keeping an estimated 6.6 million potential visitors from traveling to the States in 2023 at a loss of $11.6 billion in projected spending as wait times for visitor visa interviews now exceed 400 days for first-time applicants from top source markets.

US Travel Association

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

The US Department of Commerce’s newly released National Travel and Tourism Strategy identifies inbound travel as an economic priority and sets a national goal of welcoming 90 million international visitors by 2027. However, the State Department’s perceived lack of urgency on this issue is in direct conflict with the Commerce Department’s objectives, according to the USTA.

US Travel Association U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Geoff Freeman

“Excessive visa delays are essentially a travel ban—no one is going to wait 1-2 years to interview with a US 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.”

While the State Department has made progress in processing other visa categories—such as H-2B and student visas—first-time applicants for visitor visas are neglected by the agency, according to the association. Per the USTA report, it is in the nation’s economic interest for the State Department to accelerate interviews as these visitors account for a significant portion of U.S. travel exports. Spending losses from just three top markets—Brazil, India, and Mexico—could total more than $5 billion in 2023, according to the data.

A new Morning Consult survey conducted of likely international travelers in Brazil, India, and Mexico (who do not already have a valid US visa) found strong interest in visiting the United States, but the majority said they would likely choose another country to visit if wait times for visa interviews exceeded a year (61 percent of Brazilians, 66 percent of Indians, and 71 percent of Mexicans).

In Brazil, India and Mexico alone, the US is losing the ability to compete for:

  • Brazil: 3.6 million visitors and $15.6 billion in spending
  • India: 3.5 million visitors and $13.3 billion in spending
  • Mexico: 7.1 million visitors and $4.1 billion in spending

Thanks to efforts by the association, Congresswomen María Elvira Salazar (Fla.-27) and Susie Lee (Nev.-03) introduced the bipartisan Visitor Visa Wait Time Reduction Act (H.R.9141) last week to tackle the issue and shift resources to reduce the backlog.

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