US hopes to issue five-year visas for Chinese travellers

6 Dec 2011

The United States is working towards luring more cash flushed Chinese travellers to its shores whether it is for tourism, business or education, with plans for five-year visas, according to Gary Locke, US Ambassador to China, speaking at a conference in Hong Kong yesterday.

“We’d like to issue five-year visas for Chinese visitors to the United States for business, travel or study,” said Locke, provided that the Chinese government reciprocates. “We’ve officially asked the government of China to also issue five-year visas for Americans as well.” The five-year visa would mean Chinese visitors would not need to reapply for visas every time they travel to the United States within a five-year period. Currently, visitors with temporary tourist and business visas, also known as B1 or B2 visas, are only valid for one year. 

Other than longer visas, the US has tried to reduce waiting times to get a visa at its various embassies across China. “Right now, our wait times are generally down to about one week, except for peak travel times. We can and we must be better at all times of the year.” This involves ensuring “that our consulate officers and managers have the resources and people to keep wait times short,” said Locke.

The conference, organised by Committee 100, was aimed at discussing and encouraging a constructive relationship between Greater China and the United States and therefore covered a broad suite of issues from the internationalisation of the Renminbi, foreign direct investment by Chinese companies in the US and the nature of the growing numbers of affluent Chinese consumers.

Recently, the UK also announced similar reforms to visa procedures to attract the Chinese visitor (see story here) in light of a study revealing that the UK loses out to its European counterparts as an attractive tourist destination (see more details here).

Alisha Haridasani

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