The United States government is making efforts to improve visa processing in China in order to attract more Chinese visa applicants, according to a press release by the US Consulate General in Guangzhou on Thursday.
The US Consulate General in Guangzhou is working with the American Chamber of Commerce for a business traveler program, which will provide some south China companies, mostly from Guangdong, more convenient visa application procedures. In the next three months, executives of these companies will receive expedited interview appointments and other services to ease the preparation for business travel in the United States.
The consulate is also working with trade promotion agencies to help explain how smaller businesses can receive visas for the Untied States to attend trade shows and exhibitions.
As for student visas, the US government has extended the visa validity for Chinese students from six months to one year starting last July. It has also recommended increasing the validity to four years, and the Chinese government is considering the request.
"We want to see greater numbers of Chinese come to apply for visas -- we are open for business," said William S. Laidlaw, deputy manager of the consular section and manager of the non immigration visa unit with the Guangzhou consulate.
According to Laidlaw, US government bodies in China will make presentations around the country in the coming year to clarify the negative perceptions concerning visa applications, and to show the government's positive attitude in welcoming more Chinese visa applicants.
Such promotions are believed to be a move to tackle the huge drop in Chinese visa applications caused by the US government's visa policy changes after 9/11 , which made visa processing more arduous and complicated.
According to the historical statistics published earlier on some Chinese Web sites, visa applications from Chinese students have dropped by 50 percent over the past few years, which has boosted the overseas student markets in many other countries. Business and tourist visa applications to the United States have also suffered from the policy changes.
"There is an undergoing debate in the Department of State in the United States concerning whether to adjust some changes to attract more visa applications. Although it is still hard to say when there will be a result for the debate, we want to show you that we are trying to improve visa processing," said Laidlaw.
The US government has invested in more staff in China. It has also invested approximately US$50 million over the last four years in automation to improve efficiency in the visa application process. An automated visa application process, known as EVAF, is also recommended, which is said to have expedited appointment.
"Such efforts have translated into results -- there are recent positive indicators about Chinese travel trends to the United States," said Laidlaw.
In 2005, the US Consulate General in Guangzhou has seen a 13 percent increase in student visa applications. In the first three months, the applications were up by 30 percent. The overall visa applications are expected to rise at least by 10 percent next year.
"This is a trend we hope to continue. We understand and strong believe that travel, trade and exchange of ideas are good for America and for the world," Laidlaw stressed.
(Shenzhen Daily December 30, 2005)