US liberalises visa procedures for Chinese

Last Updated: Friday, February 10, 2012 - 18:26

Beijing: The US has liberalised visa procedures for non-immigrant Chinese as it stepped up efforts to woo more tourists to help its ailing economy.

Starting next Monday, qualified non-immigrant Chinese
applicants to the US can renew their visas without undergoing
another interview if their visas expired less than 48 months
ago.

The scheme was launched under a pilot programme announced
yesterday by US Ambassador Gary Locke, state-run China Daily
reported today.

US consular officers handled over a million visa
applications from China in 2011, a 34 per cent increase. The
growth rate accelerated to 48 per cent in the last three
months of 2011.

Now almost 90 per cent of non-immigrant applications from
Chinese nationals are approved, Charles Bennett, minister-
counsellor for consular affairs at the US embassy, said.

Chinese tourists to the US, on average, spend more than
USD 6,000 per trip, compared with about USD 4,000 spent by all
other international travellers, according to statistics from
the US Department of Commerce.

More than 800,000 Chinese visitors contributed USD five
billion to the US economy in 2010.

The new initiative includes B (temporary visitors for
business and pleasure), C1 (transit), F (students), J
(exchange visitors) and other categories, covering 95 per cent
of the total visas issued by the US embassy and consulates
across China, according to Locke.

The previous policy only allowed an interview waiver
within 12 months of the expiration date.

"We expect that this will benefit tens of thousands of
applicants in China, saving them time and money, and making it
easier for them to travel to the United States more
frequently," Locke said.

On January 19, US President Barack Obama signed an
executive order to significantly increase travel and tourism
to the US, with the goal of increasing visa-processing
capacity in China by up to 40 per cent in 2012.

This goal, combined with previous measures announced by
the US embassy to streamline the application process to allow
Chinese applicants to be interviewed in a more efficient
manner, is the country`s latest effort to attract more
visitors from emerging economies, such as China, to boost the
ailing US economy, the report said.

"We find that once a country relaxes its visa policy for
Chinese tourists, it usually produces immediate results in the
growth of visitor numbers," Jiang Yiyi, director of China
Tourism Academy`s International Tourism Development Institute,
said.

Locke, however, did not respond directly to a question on
whether this initiative was aimed at boosting the US economy.
The pilot programme does not apply to first-time
applicants.

PTI



First Published: Friday, February 10, 2012 - 18:26

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