Executive Order Aims to Speed Nonimmigrant Visa Processing

Nothing is yet being implemented, but there’s cause for hope that getting a tourist, student, or other nonimmigrant visa won’t be as slow a process as it has been since 9/11, based on a recent Executive Order by President Obama. (The order is called “Establishing Visa and Foreign Visitor Processing Goals and the Task Force on Travel and Competitiveness” and was issued on January 19, 2012.)

A lot of the order simply tells the relevant federal government agencies to come up with a plan, but it does contain some specific instructions to:

  • increase nonimmigrant visa processing capacity in China and Brazil by 40% over the coming year
  • ensure that 80% of nonimmigrant visa applicants are interviewed within three weeks of receipt of application, while still taking resource and security considerations into account
  • increase efforts to expand the Visa Waiver Program and travel by nationals of Visa Waiver Program participants, and
  • expand reciprocal recognition programs for expedited travel, such as the Global Entry program.

If it leads to real change, this will be good news for Chinese and Brazilian citizens in particular, who have faced waits of up to three months just to get a visa appointment.

But the Economist is doubtful whether the needed resources will truly be allocated in this direction, as described in its article, “Obama moves to simplify visa process.”