US urged to reduce visa wait times for India, Brazil, China

US urged to reduce visa wait times for India, Brazil, China

US urged to reduce visa wait times for India, Brazil, China

With tough security measures adopted post 9/11, in particular increase in time in issuing visas hitting the travel industry, a US body has asked the Obama Administration to reduce visa wait time to under 10 days especially in countries like India, China and Brazil.

Ahead of the 10th anniversary of the twin tower attacks, the US Travel Association also urged the Transportation and Security Administration (TSA) to reduce the security screening wait time at major airports to less than 10 minutes.

"We've got to decrease visa wait times to 10 days or less around the world. State Department should be challenged and should put plans together to really see that in all countries it's under 10 days, but especially emphasising countries like Brazil, China and India," the Association's president and CEO Roger Dow told reporters in a conference call.

He said his body has also sought the reduction of screening time at airports which needs to be done both during peak times as well as non-peak times.

"We ask the TSA be able to employ the technology and the resources to get to 10 minutes or less at all major airports, and especially at peak times. It doesn't do us good to average 15 hours a day 10 minutes or less," he said.

Dow said it was important to employ several tactics to achieve these ends, like increasing staff to meet the demand levels.

"It's having six hours a day of having the consular officers be able to do interviews, looking at double shifts to maximise the facilities that we have, and increasing the -- the dates of visa validity," he said.

"If you take China, for example, you can only have a one-year visa, and that -- that fully puts a third of the people in line are people that are multiple-repeat business visitors to America.

"A five-year visa in China would take a third of the people out of line, again, make us much more productive in this growing market," Dow said.

He said decreasing the wait times for international travelers once they arrive to 20 minutes or less was also important and people should be able to get through US Customs and Border Protection just as they do with global entry, and move quickly.

"CBP (Customs and Border Police) has done a fabulous job with global entry. It's a terrific programme," he said.

Dow said the next priority ought to be how to get wait times to get through passport and custom inspections in 20 minutes or less.

"And that's done through improved staffing models and hiring additional CBP officers at the airports, because these people are coming and we want the world to know that you can get to America easily and safely," Dow said.

He said the priority should be to establish high customer service standards from the time a person applies for visa interview all the way through when he or she clear customs.

"... have metrics and monitor the metrics and have goals to say what we're going to achieve and make sure we're hitting those goals, to have consular websites standardised and in the languages of the traveler," he said.

"We also encourage and would like to see videoconferencing techniques embraced. Today's technology and high definition and the abilities have greatly enhanced this capability to help in this area and would enable us to reach many more people in areas that have great distances.

"For instance, Brazil is the size of the United States, but there's only four places to go to get your visa," Dow said.