Skift Travel News Blog

Short stories and posts about the daily news happenings around the travel industry.

Tourism

U.S. Visa Delays Sees Some Reduction

4 days ago

Global average wait times for U.S. visitor visas dropped below 150 days in January for the first time since 2021, according to the U.S. Travel Association. They still, however, remain higher than 400 days for India, Brazil, Mexico and top inbound visa-requiring markets (excluding China).

In 2022, aspiring tourists from the top ten inbound countries outside the U.S. Visa Waiver Program couldn’t travel to the U.S. because they had to hundreds of days to get a visitor visa (B-1 and B-2) interview at their local U.S. embassy. The primary reason was inadequate processing staff amid released pent-up demand. The delays could cost the travel industry an estimated $12 billion in 2023 and cause international travel not to reach pre-pandemic levels until 2025, according to the U.S. Travel.

The recent wait time reductions have been due to the State Department’s new processing initiatives. The department’s “Super Saturdays” initiative has had embassies and consulates remain open on Saturdays to process visas. This past Saturday, for example, the consulate at Monterrey, Mexico, cut interview wait times from 545 days in mid-December to (still high) 407 days. The administration’s wavering of interview requirements for low-risk renewals of visitor visa and other categories have also helped.

Visa wait times remain absurdly high for many international tourists. In Mumbai, India, for example, wait times fell from 999 days in mid-December to 623 days—that’s more than a year and a half.

The State Department expects interview wait times will fall to under 120 days and its embassies and consulates will be fully staffed by the end of the 2023 fiscal year, according to U.S. Travel. The speed of visa wait times reductions will vary by country due local travel demand and hiring pace, according to Peter van Berkel, chairman of the International Inbound Travel Association and president of Travalco, a tour operator. 

Under 120 days is still high and underscores the Skift 2023 megatrend that the U.S. travel industry will have to continue to contend with the loss of many international travelers.

Working with the State Department to resolve the visitor visa delay issue will be the top priority for the person that fills the newly-created assistant secretary of travel and tourism position

Tourism

U.S. Travel Launches Website Spotlighting Visa Delay Damage

2 months ago

The U.S. Travel Association has launched a website to highlight the negative impact of long visitor visa interview wait times—which now exceed an average of 400 days—is having on global travelers and U.S. businesses. Called USVisaDelays.com, the website lists stories of those affected, loss in industry spending, visitor wait times, impacted markets and a policy fact sheet. 

Users can also submit their own story as a traveler or a business owner. “There are no better voices to tell the personal toll of America’s de facto border closure than the people, families and American businesses directly impacted by egregious visa wait times,” said U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Geoff Freeman. 

The U.S. is projected to lose nearly $7 billion in travel spending in 2023 and not see a full recovery in international inbound travel until 2025, according to U.S. Travel.

The website also calls on the Biden administration to take action and provides policy recommendations. “The Biden administration must focus on what is in its control and take immediate action to lower wait times, “said Freeman. “We simply cannot afford to give travelers any reason to avoid visiting the United States.”

U.S. Travel will launch custom versions of the website in both English and Portuguese next week.

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