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.