Today, the Administration released a 180 Day Progress Report on its efforts to build capacity, leverage resources, and improve the visa application and entry process – without compromising security – as directed by the President in a January 2012 Executive Order.
The State Department is meeting and exceeding the President’s goals to lower visa interview wait times and increase visa processing capacity with new staffing initiatives, expansion of existing facilities, and streamlining of the visa process.
Interview Wait Times: We are surpassing the President’s goal of interviewing 80 percent of nonimmigrant visa applicants within three weeks of receipt of their application. Worldwide, consular officers are now interviewing 88 percent of applicants within three weeks, compared to 57 percent in July 2011. In China, we have kept wait times to an average of five days in 2012 while managing a 37 percent increase in visa demand. In Brazil, we have brought wait times down by 98 percent to just two days, while also managing a 37 percent jump in demand.
Increased Processing Capacity: The President also directed State to increase visa processing capacity in Brazil and China by 40 percent in 2012. As of June 2012, the U.S. Mission in Brazil had increased processing capacity by 40 percent, and the U.S. Mission in China will meet the target in China by December 2012. To accomplish this, State created more than 50 new visa adjudicator positions in China and 60 in Brazil, including 43 hired under an innovative program that targets recruits that speak Mandarin and Portuguese.
Streamlining the Visa Process: A pilot program that allows consular officers to waive in-person interviews for certain nonimmigrant visa applicants who are renewing their visas is operational at 52 visa processing posts in 28 countries. Consular officers have already waived interviews for more than 120,000 of these low-risk visa applicants.
Expanding Facilities: State is investing millions of dollars to upgrade and expand its existing consular facilities, and build new consulates. State will open a new consulate building in Guangzhou in FY 2013, and will open a consular section in Wuhan in FY 2014. New consulates in Belo Horizonte and Porto Alegre will open in Brazil by 2014. These investments will increase visa processing capacity in Brazil by 140 percent and in China by 120 percent.
Milestone in Visa Processing: As a result of these efforts to increase capacity, streamline processing, and lower interview wait times, the State Department reports that consular officers at the U.S. Embassy in Brasilia, Consulate General Rio de Janeiro, Consulate General São Paulo, and Consulate Recife have processed more than one million visa applications to date in fiscal year 2012 while reducing the wait time for a visa interview appointment to less than one week. This extraordinary accomplishment represents visa processing growth of almost 37% over the same period last fiscal year. The U.S. Mission in Brazil joins the U.S. Missions in China and Mexico as the only U.S. missions that process over one million visas each year.
The State Department is working harder than ever to explain the visa application process, and has released “Visit America: It’s Easier Than You Think,” a video that welcomes visitors and demystifies the visa process by sharing facts about the simple steps to apply for a visa.