More than 40 mayors from around the country, working with the US Travel Association (USTA), are calling on the Biden administration to do more to reduce the wait times for visas for those visiting the US. The backlog, which can be more than a year in some cases, has had an impact on US tourism at a time when recovery is still fragile.
A bipartisan letter was sent to Secretary of State Antony Blinken this week and offered a four-point plan to improve visitor visa processing. Included among the signatories were the mayors of New York City, San Francisco, Seattle, Chicago, Orlando, Philadelphia, Nashville, and Washington, D.C.
In the letter, the mayors noted that the 43 percent of international visitors who required visas came to the US and represented more than $120 billion in spending in 2019 alone. According to a survey from USTA, the wait times have had a significant impact on US tourism, and visitors are often choosing to travel to—and spend in—other countries that aren’t seeing such lingering disruptions. Further delays could result in an additional $7 billion lost in 2023.
According to research from the USTA released last month: “Interview wait times for the top 10 inbound visa-requiring markets (excluding China) still exceed 400 days. However, global average wait times have dropped below 150 days for the first time since 2021.” Currently, visitors from Brazil, India, and Mexico are experiencing the highest wait times, often nearing a two-year backlog, but that is down from the previous high of 999 days in some cases. You can check for current wait times here.
The State Department has taken action in recent months, including waiving interview requirements for worker (especially seasonal) and student visas, as well as opening consulates and embassies on Saturdays to process visas, which have been dubbed “Super Saturdays.” The State Department has also been hiring additional personnel with the goal of reducing wait times to 120 days or fewer.