Image via WikipediaNew U.S. Ambassador to China, Gary Locke recently announced a 34% increase on adjudicated visas for Chinese applicants among our consular posts in China. Chinese visitors also reportedly added more than $5 billion to the U.S. economy during the previous fiscal year:
Ambassador Gary Locke announced that the U.S. Mission to China adjudicated more than one million U.S. visas for Chinese applicants during fiscal year 2011. The U.S. Embassy in Beijing and Consulates in Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenyang and Chengdu all contributed to this accomplishment, which represents a 34 percent increase over last year.
Ambassador Locke stressed the significance of this achievement, “The U.S.-China relationship is profoundly important, and welcoming Chinese visitors to the United States strengthens our cultural and commercial ties. I am very pleased at the success we have had in significantly reducing wait times for visa appointments this year.”
According to the Department of Commerce, more than 801,000 Chinese visited the United States in 2010. These visitors added more than $5 billion to the U.S. economy.
The U.S. Mission to China will continue to invite Chinese tourists, students, and businesspeople to visit the United States, a premier destination for travelers from around the world. The Mission will continue to reduce visa interview wait times to the greatest extent possible by adding staff and eliminating inefficiencies wherever possible.
I have a feeling that this is going to be the start of the "counting beans" era at our overseas posts. Consular posts overseas already are under pressure to keep the visa interview wait time, not that it makes a difference to Havana which now has 999 days wait time for visa interviews. Posts may now be asked to calculate (or obtain the numbers elsewhere) on how much their visa applicants contribute to the U.S. economy.
So far, no one has posted readily available information on how much the U.S. Treasury is earning from visas and consular services collected at our posts overseas. I was told once that State's Consular Bureau does not like advertising that. Note that state.gov already post statistics of visa issuance but not visa applications. In 2010, our consular posts worldwide issued 6,422,751 nonimmigrant visas. Even at a regular tourist visa fee of $140, that's $899.2 million in US dollars. Some type of visas like the petition based categories and investors/intracompany transferee visas cost more. And since a lot more applicants are refused, that $899.2 million is probably only about a third of a whole bucket.
For some, even the money generated by the visa application fees would not be enough. There have been calls on and off about reforming the visa system to make it more "traveler-friendly." Expect to hear more about the visa system and how it could generate more American jobs. As two Seattle-based CEOs put it, "winning back our share of the global long-haul travel market to 2000-2001 levels would create 1.3 million new American jobs by 2020 and add $859 billion in economic output."
In the meantime, we'll be in the lookout for bean-counter pressers from our posts overseas. Too early to tell if this is a trend.