US sees faster visa processing times for Brazil and China

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Thanks to an increase in U.S. Embassy visa officials in Brazil and China from last November, the U.S. has reported faster processing times. Also, following U.S. President Obama's announcement on 19 January regarding the importance of tourism, the country has also seen an increase in the numbers of Chinese and Brazilian tourists visiting the US.

"We will always protect our borders and shores and our tourist destinations from people who want to do us harm," Obama said in January. "But we also want to get more international tourists coming to America. And there's no reason we can't do both."

In order to have faster processing times, the State Department added workers in Brazil and China and reallocated some processes to other consular offices. State Department's Bureau of Consular Affairs Deputy Assistant Secretary David Donahue said because of this the U.S. has seen a marked improvement in processing times.

According to Donahue, in some cases, wait times in China are as little as two days, and in Brazil, wait times can be as little as a week. Tourism from these countries has also increased significantly.

Donahue said it was important to have visitor visas for a variety of reasons. He said that visitor visas help to reduce the number of people who come to the US and break the immigration laws, or enter the country intending to commit crimes or carry out terrorist attacks. In order to do this, consulates use a combination of interviews, biographies and biometrics on "each applicant to ensure they don't post a threat," he said.

However, nationals of many countries do not need a visitor visa to travel to the U.S. There are 36 countries under the US visa waiver program whose nationals do not need visas to travel to the U.S. for tourism or business for 90 days or less including Australia, Canada, the UK, and Italy.

Citizens of countries under the visa waiver program are also required to apply for the online Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) application. ESTA is an automated system that determines the eligibility of visitors to travel to the US under the Visa Waiver Program. You will need to submit the ESTA if:

  • You are a citizen or eligible national of a Visa Waiver Program country.
  • You are currently not in possession of a visitor's visa.
  • Your travel is for 90 days or less.
  • You plan to travel to the US for business or pleasure.
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