Trade Resources Policy & Opinion US' New Visa Policy Fuels Boom in Visitors

US' New Visa Policy Fuels Boom in Visitors

More Chinese are applying for a United States visa, pushing up the number of outbound tours to the US.

Last month, China and the US agreed to extend the validity of short-term tourist and business visas issued to each other's citizens from one to 10 years, and student and exchange visas from one to five years, to encourage more travel between the two countries.

The US embassy in Beijing currently processes several thousand visa applications each day, and over the last year the growth rate has been approximately 22 percent.

"Over the last several years the US Mission in China has taken many steps to make the visa application process more efficient and simpler," says Charles Bennett, minister-counselor for consular affairs at the embassy.

According to the US Department of Commerce, more than 1.8 million Chinese tourists traveled to the US in 2013, spending $21 billion and supporting more than 100,000 American jobs.

With the change in visa policy, it's expected that up to 7.3 million Chinese visitors will travel to the US by 2021, contributing about $85 billion per year to its economy and supporting as many as 440,000 jobs.

"We expect this growth to increase at an even faster rate and more Chinese citizens will consider visiting the US," Bennett says.

According to Tong Xijin, vice president of ilvxing.com, an online tourism website in China, the company used to deal with about 500 to 700 cases of US visa applications every month, and the amount doubled after the new policy coming into effect.

"As the validity is as long as 10 years, some people apply just in case they will visit the US sometime," he says.

Application process

The application process and fee are the same as before. Applicants will have to book a face-to-face interview with the embassy and the result will come out soon after the interview. Those who are issued a visa will get their passports back after three working days.

"Many Chinese mistakenly believe that it's difficult to apply for a US visa. But I don't think it's the truth," he says.

"Youngsters only need to prove they've saved enough money for their trip to the US and have a clear purpose. But if they're applying for a Japanese or Schengen visa, the request for the applicant's financial situation is more rigid."

Hua Tian was glad to get her 10-year business and tourism visa, after queuing up for an hour on a recent cold and windy day outside the embassy in Beijing.

"It saves both time and money as we don't have to apply for the visa every year. I can just pack up and travel to the US when I want," says Hua, 28, an MBA student from Tsinghua University, who will visit the US for a seven-day exchange program.

At the same time, tourism bureaus and tour agencies are seizing the opportunities offered by the increasing number of Chinese visitors to the country.

"A major consideration for Chinese tourists choosing their overseas destinations is the visa policy," says Reene Ho-Phang, Great China managing director of Capital Region USA, an organization that promotes Washington DC, Virginia and Maryland as travel destinations.

"The US is a country worthy of in-depth and multiple tours. We're in negotiations to cooperate with Chinese tour agencies and operators to promote the capital region among Chinese and develop more tour products targeting the market," Ho-Phang says.

Perfect timing

Peter Phang, managing director of Las Vegas Convention Visitors Authority China says the timing of the new policy came at the perfect time for the company because it has recently expanded with a team dedicated to grow the trade show and exhibitions segment.

He says with the longer validity of visas, there will be a wider pool of Chinese who are ready-to-travel to the US, so it reduces any obstacles to visiting Las Vegas to participate in the many trade shows the city hosts.

"Many customers are calling to inquire about the US visa application. We estimate there will be great market demand of the outbound trips to the US during the New Year and Spring Festival," says Wang Qian, deputy general manager of the USA region, outbound tourism department, China International Travel Service Limited.

The agency has prepared a range of tour products, both group tours and semi-independent tours and visitors can choose from destinations including the East Coast, the West Coast and Hawaii. Another option: Take a Disney Dream Cruise.

According to Cai Jinghui, chief operating officer of Qyer.com, a popular website for overseas travel, having a US or Schengen visa makes Chinese tourists eligible for visa-on-arrival or even visa waivers in more than a dozen third countries. Also they can benefit from the weakness of non-US currencies such as the Japanese yen and the euro, and the fierce competition in the Chinese online tourism industry.

"In 2015, the outbound tour market will continue to boom. Independent tours will still be popular in big cities, while group tours will occupy the market in second- and third-tier cities."

Source: chinadaily
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US' New Visa Policy Fuels Boom in Visitors
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