Yuma Sun

Wellton, Yuma mayors call for reduced visitor visa wait times

Blitz, Nicholls urge action on visa processing to rebuild inbound travel


Two Yuma County mayors are among the more than 40 city and county leaders from across the country who are calling on the State Department to address visa late times that average 400 days for certain nations.

Wellton Mayor Scott Blitz and Yuma Mayor Doug Nicholls signed the letter sent to Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

The mayors, along with the U.S. Travel Associatio­n, are calling on the State Department to do more to address this “critical issue.” They were part of a bipartisan group of 44 mayors and officials representi­ng American cities and counties who came together to send Blinken a letter urging immediate action to reduce visitor visa interview wait times, which persistent­ly remain above 400 days for would-be travelers from certain countries.

The joint letter states: “As a lingering result of the pandemic’s peak, a severe backlog in the processing of U.S. visitor visas is now delaying–in some instances well over a year–the visitation of foreign travelers from key markets who provide much-needed economic and diplomatic benefits to the nation.”

The State Department has taken helpful steps recently, such as opening consulates some Saturdays for additional visa processing and waiving interviews for low-risk renewals, but the mayors believe more work is needed.

They pointed to four recommenda­tions to accelerate visitor visa processing:

• Set clear timelines to restore efficient visa processing. Lower wait times to 21 days in the top countries for inbound travel by April.

• By Sept. 30, reinstate the Executive Order to provide interview appointmen­ts for 80% of nonimmigra­nt visa applicants within 21 days or less.

• Increase consular staffing and resources in countries with a high volume of applicants and for large events in the U.S. that draw internatio­nal visitors.

• Extend interview waivers for nonimmigra­nt visa renewals and apply waivers more broadly to renewal applicants who are considered low risk through 2024.

The mayors noted that processing delays are detrimenta­l to restoring the inbound travel sector and the broader U.S. economic recovery. In 2019, 43% of internatio­nal visitors–and $120 billion in spending–came from countries where a visa is required to enter the U.S.

The U.S. Travel Associatio­n projects that American businesses will lose 6.6 million potential visitors and $11.6 billion in spending in 2023 alone as a result of likely internatio­nal travelers’ inability to secure a visitor visa.

The group added that increased federal attention to this issue is not only good for the U.S. economy and workforce, but also for public diplomacy: “When millions of travelers from around the world safely visit the United States, they return home with countless stories of the experience­s that only America can provide.”

To see the letter and list of signers, go to: https://tinyurl.com/48f7427w.

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