Delays in processing visitor visas are keeping an estimated 6.6 million potential arrivals from travelling to the US at a loss of $11.6 billion, a new analysis reveals.
Wait times for visitor visa interviews now exceed 400 days for first-time applicants from top source markets, described by the US Travel Association as an “immense deterrent” that is undercutting America’s global competitiveness.
The trade body warned that the US Department of State’s low prioritisation of visitor visa (B-1/B-2) processing is severely hindering the country’s economic recovery.
The US Department of Commerce’s newly released national travel and economic strategy identifies inbound travel as an economic priority and sets a national goal of welcoming 90 million international visitors by 2027.
But the State Department’s lack of urgency on this issue is in direct conflict with the Commerce Department’s objectives, the US Travel Association argues.
While progress in processing other visa categories – such as H-2B and student visas – first-time applicants for visitor visas are “neglected” by the agency.
Irish travellers to the US can enter via the Electronic System for Travel Authorisation (ESTA) visa waiver scheme but the cost tripled from $7 to $21 in May.
ESTA allows travellers from 40 countries participating in the visa waiver programme to enter the US for stays of up to 90 days without having to acquire a visa.