Prolonged visa delays are stifling tourism recovery in the US, according to the US Travel Association (USTA), the industry’s leading advocacy group. USTA estimates that US State Department visa delays could prevent 6.6 million people from traveling to the US next year, resulting in $11.6 billion in lost spending.
Morning Consult surveyed more than 900 Brazilian, 1,000 Indian and 490 Mexican adults from September 12-16. Brazil, India and Mexico are not part of the US Visa Waiver Program. Citizens of these countries must apply for a B1 and/or B2 visitor visa in order to stay temporarily in the United States. Of the respondents, 88%, 90%, and 86% of Brazilian, Indian, and Mexican respondents said they do not rule out visiting the United States.
Outrageous wait times send a message to travelers that the US is closed for business.Geoff Freeman, CEO of the US Travel Association
Among visitors who applied for visitor visas in other countries, more than half of Brazilians, nearly half of Mexicans, and more than three-quarters of Indians reported that the visa process in the United States was more cumbersome than in other countries.
The wait time for a visitor visa appointment in Mexico City is 641 days and 347 days in Rio De Janeiro. According to the US State Department, the wait time in early December at the American Embassy in New Delhi was 936 calendar days, including weekends and holidays. In Hyderabad, 780; in Mumbai, 999.
CNN reports that authorities are trying to put in place actions to speed up visa interview processes. They are hiring “eligible family members of our diplomatic staff to fill consular positions overseas and in the United States.”
All of these hassles translate into billions of dollars in lost spending for the U.S. travel industry. USTA projects that the loss of tourists from Brazil, India and Mexico will equal $5 billion in 2023.
Visa wait times are hampering US competitiveness, economists said. An estimated 61 percent of Brazilian tourists, 66 percent of Indian tourists and 71 percent of Mexican tourists said they would likely choose another country to visit if visa wait times exceeded one year.
Not only does this deter aspiring tourists to the United States, but the visa process pushes tourists away. About 36 percent of Brazilians, 44 percent of Indians, and 86 percent of Mexicans said that visa wait times were one of the reasons they did not choose the United States as one of their top destinations to visit.
The survey results come as wait times for visitor visas continue to skyrocket. According to the US Travel Association, wait times for visitor visas exceed 400 days for new applicants in major source markets.