For residents of a few countries, those which have the most visitors to the United States, visa application and processing appears to be improving. The US Department of State is reporting that wait times for a visa interview in China is less than a week in most consulates, even as they have issued more than one million visas so far in this fiscal year, an increase of 43% from last year. In certain limited situations the agency has even been willing to waive the interview process.
Brazilian visitors are also applying in record numbers. The nation is also up more than 40% in application numbers over last year and is vying to be the third country to hit the one million annual applications level (Mexico is the other). And it looks like things will be getting better sooner than not for Brazil visits in both directions. Janet Napolitano, head of the Department of Homeland Security, was in Brazil this past week for a series of meetings. One of the many things coming out of this visit was the signing of "a Statement of Intent to establish a Visa Waiver Program (VWP) Working Group." OK, so they’re just intending to form a working group to see if adding Brazil to the VWP country list is possible. Real progress on this front is a long time out. But it is definitely better that they’re moving in that direction. Assuming it goes through it should also see an end to the reciprocal visa charges for US citizens who want to visit Brazil (currently $160 for a 10 year visa). Considering that Brazilians are near or at the top of tourism spending this should be a welcome effort for large swaths of the US tourism industry. Plus, Brazil is an awesome place to visit.
Every little bit helps. In both directions.