U.S. Visa Wait Exceeds One Year For Top Sources Of Inbound Visitors; Improvement Needed, Travel Group Says

The average wait time for a US visa interview for travelers from the top 10 countries requiring entry visas is more than 400 days, or more than a year, a leading US travel industry group said today.

“Wait times are still too high despite significant improvements in countries like India,” said Jeff Freeman, president and CEO of the American Travel Association. The wait time in India for a visa interview by the US State Department dropped from a mid-December high of 999 days to 577 days as of From January 19.

The other top 10 markets that experienced “amazing” waits – including Brazil and Mexico – are also improving, the association said in a statement. Still, “a lot of work remains to get interview wait times down to an acceptable level” following pandemic-related disruptions, Freeman said. Today’s figures do not include waiting times in China, whose citizens need a visa to travel to the US.

The stakes are high for the U.S. travel industry, a potential bright spot for a U.S. economy facing a possible recession this year. The U.S. Travel Association tentatively predicts that spending from all international travelers will be around $93 billion by 2022 — not including spending related to education and health. This compares to $180 billion in 2019 before the pandemic. U.S. travelers last year — domestic and foreign — spent about $1.1 trillion, about 10 percent less than in 2019, the association said.

The U.S. has tried to reduce the long wait for a visa interview by waiving requirements for low-risk renewals of visitor, worker and student visas, the association said. Waiting times for interviews for the destination of less than 120 days until the end of September.

Still, the association said, the four-month, 120-day wait “will far exceed what the economy needs for a robust recovery from inbound travel.” By comparison, an executive order required 80% of nonimmigrant visa applications worldwide to be interviewed within 21 days from 2012-2017, it noted.

Total overseas visits to the U.S. in 2022 were likely to top 50 million travelers, the union said, citing U.S. Commerce Department data. This is compared to 22 million in 2021 and 79 million in 2019. By country, the top 10 sources of visitors to the US in 2022 were Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, India, Brazil, Colombia, South Korea and Spain.

One notable member of the 2019 top 10 may rebound in 2023: mainland China. The number of arrivals to China in 2022 will drop to about 368,000 from 2.8 million in 2019, the association said. The country’s easing of “zero-Covid” rules has already led to increased travel bookings and share prices this year for US-listed businesses such as Trip.com – the country’s largest online travel site – and H World, a major hotel chain.

The US Travel Association represents more than 1,100 travel organizations and businesses, from airlines like United Airlines to Universal Parks and Resorts.

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