November 09, 2022

A Year After Borders Reopen, Biden Admin Inaction on Visitor Visas Exacerbates Int'l Travel Recovery

One full year since reopening U.S. borders to inbound air travelers, 400+ day wait times for first-time visitor visas is resulting in de facto border closure

One year following the reopening of U.S. borders to inbound air travelers on November 8, outrageous wait times of more than 400 days for visitor visa applicants is delaying the recovery of the critically important international travel sector.

U.S. visa wait times now average a staggering 400+ days for first-time visitor visa applicants in the largest countries for inbound travel. Visa interview wait times for potential travelers from Brazil, India and Mexico—are now 317, 757 and 601 days respectively. These excessive delays are the equivalent of a travel ban, driving potential U.S. visitors to choose other countries.

U.S. Travel estimates that the U.S. will lose nearly 7 million potential visitors and $12 billion in projected spending in 2023 alone due to excessive wait times.

NEW: Inbound travel forecast elevates critical need to reduce visa wait times

New forecasting analysis by Tourism Economics underscores the urgent need for the Biden administration to solve the growing visitor visa processing problem.

Inbound travel is projected to remain far below pre-pandemic levels in 2022 and 2023—resulting in a loss of nearly 50 million visitors over the two years and $140 billion in inflation adjusted travel spending. This reflects a downgrade of 8 million visitors in 2022 and 2023 combined—and $28 billion in travel spending—from the June 2022 forecast.

“The forecast is further proof that the U.S. simply cannot afford to turn away high-spending international travelers,” said U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Geoff Freeman. “While other economic factors may be out of our control, reducing visitor visa wait times is easily within the Biden administration’s reach if only they would make it a priority.”

A Direct Message: ‘They Wait, We Lose’

During the week of November 28, U.S. Travel will launch a new effort to highlight the very voices most affected by egregious visa wait times, including potential travelers whose U.S. visits are delayed by inefficiencies in State Department processing, as well as U.S. business interests who are feeling the pain of lost travel spending at a time it’s most needed.

This will include a custom website, in English and other languages, to capture the perspectives of potential visitors as well as U.S. businesses. The site will:

  • Invite affected global travelers to share a testimonial about waiting for a U.S. visitor visa;
  • Invite U.S. small business owners and managers to provide statements of missed business opportunities associated with fewer international visitors;
  • Host fact sheets and data that detail U.S. economic losses due to excessive wait times; and
  • Highlight policy priorities to help alleviate the backlog and expedite processing in key foreign source markets of travel to the U.S.

It will also be featured on social media across multiple platforms using the hashtag #TheyWaitWeLose.

“A year ago, the images of planes and travelers headed to the U.S. were cause for celebration after nearly two years of border closures,” said Freeman. “Today, a full year since that joyful moment, a massive visa backlog has driven many of our potential visitors to go elsewhere. It’s a setback the Biden administration should be fully committed to solving.”

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