Facilitating Travel and Tourism to the United States
The White House released a progress report detailing the Administration’s achievements in implementing the President's National Travel and Tourism Strategy. In January 2012, the President ordered the Department of State to build capacity, leverage resources, and improve the visa application and entry process. The Department continues to meet and exceed the President's goals to attract and welcome more international visitors. In 2013, a record 70 million international visitors traveled to the United States, spending an all-time high of $180.7 billion and supporting 1.3 million U.S. jobs in the $1.5 trillion travel and tourism industry.
The Department of State is committed to facilitating legitimate travel for international visitors by issuing visas to qualified applicants. We are working harder than ever to make the visa application process straightforward, clear, and as applicant-focused as possible, without compromising security. We have expanded consular facilities and will open new ones, such as our new consulates planned for Porto Alegre and Belo Horizonte in 2016. We have added hundreds of new consular staff, and improved efficiency, resulting in major strides in facilitating legitimate travel to the United States.
In fiscal year 2013, consular officers at 224 embassies and consulates overseas issued almost 9.2 million nonimmigrant visas, up from about 6.5 million in 2010 and representing a 42% increase in just 3 years, all while upholding the highest standards of border security. Even though we have increased the number of visa issuances significantly, we also reduced the average wait times for visa interview appointments by implementing a new global standardized process for accepting applications and setting appointments, streamlining the application process, and adding resources as needed.
Since August 2012, the Department has met the goal to interview 80% of applicants worldwide within 3 weeks of submitting their applications. For 2013, more than 90% of visa applicants were interviewed within this time frame. In Brazil, China, India, and Mexico, our four largest visa issuing posts, wait times are consistently less than 1 week, even though these four missions issued almost half of all nonimmigrant visas worldwide in fiscal year 2013.
Though the number of visa applications has risen year on year, there has been no wavering in our commitment to border security. Each application is a national security decision, and to protect the United States, we continue to scrutinize every application. We’ve continually incorporated the latest technology into the application process to detect and prevent the entry of those who seek to harm the United States.
The Department is proud of its efforts to support the President's National Travel and Tourism Strategy goal of attracting and welcoming 100 million international visitors annually by the end of 2021. To learn more about our work to ensure legitimate travel to the United States while maintaining low visa wait times for international visitors, please visit our website, travel.state.gov.