It’s been a full year since the Biden administration reopened the US borders to inbound air travelers in November 2021 and wait times exceeding 400 days for visitor visa applicants continues to hamper the recovery of the international travel sector, says the US Travel Association (USTA).
Visa interview wait times for potential first-time travelers from Brazil, India, and Mexico are now 317, 757, and 601 days, respectively. These excessive delays are the equivalent of a travel ban, driving potential US visitors to choose other countries, according to the association, which could result in a loss of nearly $12 billion in projected spending in 2023.
“A year ago, the images of planes and travelers headed to the US were cause for celebration after nearly two years of border closures,” says USTA President & CEO Geoff Freeman. “Today, a full year since that joyful moment, a massive visa backlog has driven many of our potential visitors to go elsewhere. It’s a setback the Biden administration should be fully committed to solving.”
To bring attention to the issue, the association will launch a campaign later this month to highlight those affected directly by the backlog and its direct impact on the US economy and businesses. Part of the campaign will include a new website that will invite affected global travelers and small business owners to share a testimonial about how it is impacting them, as well as highlight policy priorities to help expedite processing in key foreign source markets of travel to the US. The campaign will also include social media using the hashtag #TheyWaitWeLose.
New forecasting analysis from Tourism Economics confirms the critical nature of the visa processing delays as inbound travel is projected to remain far below pre-pandemic levels in 2022 and 2023—resulting in a loss of nearly 50 million visitors over the two years and $140 billion in inflation adjusted travel spending. This reflects a downgrade of 8 million visitors in 2022 and 2023 combined—and $28 billion in travel spending—from the June 2022 forecast.
“The forecast is further proof that the US simply cannot afford to turn away high-spending international travelers,” says Freeman. “While other economic factors may be out of our control, reducing visitor visa wait times is easily within the Biden administration’s reach if only they would make it a priority.”
Visit ustravel.org for more information.