Letter to Antony Blinken, Secretary U.S. Department of State, and Alejandro Mayorkas, Secretary U.S. Department of Homeland Security - Reps. Titus, Bilirakis Call for Visa Processing Improvements


Dear Secretary Blinken and Secretary Mayorkas,
On June 12, 2022, the Administration lifted the pre-arrival COVID-19 testing requirement for all inbound international air travelers, a critical step to spur international business and leisure travel to the U.S. and support the economic recovery of our nation's travel and tourism industry. We also appreciate the Administration's efforts in March of this year to expand premium processing to certain nonimmigrant and employment-based visas. Ongoing insufficient visa processing operations, however, in conjunction with extended wait times for visa appointments, could undermine the economic, social, and diplomatic benefits of reopening inbound international travel.
To ensure international visitation can fully resume, we urge you to take steps to restore visa processing operations to pre-pandemic levels, reduce the backlog of appointments, and lower visa wait times as soon as possible. As of July 2022, average wait times for a visa appointment in the top 10 countries for inbound travel to the U.S. were more than 400 days, with many sites exceeding that average, including Guadalajara, Mexico (744 days) and Bogota, Colombia (746 days).1
Limited visa processing capacity and extended wait times discourage inbound travel, reduce visitor spending, and disrupt the reopening of American businesses. According to the U.S. Travel Association, international visitor spending in the U.S. for 2021 was still 78 percent below 2019 levels. As international and domestic travel begins to recover, many travel businesses rely on H- 2B and J-1 visas to meet short-term and seasonal workforce demands that cannot otherwise be filled. With such a significant portion of U.S. visa processing sites facing extended wait times, travel businesses will not have the international visitors or the temporary workers they need to generate a speedy and robust recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
As we look to your leadership to help the country regain its footing, we ask that you consider the following recommendations to restore and improve visa processing:
(1) Prioritize visa processing resources to the embassies and consulates that have a high demand for visas and historically facilitate the largest volume of inbound international travel to the U.S. (through B-1 and B-2 visas), including Mexico, Brazil, and India.
(2) Lower visa processing wait times to an average of 10 to 15 days in the top countries for inbound travel to the U.S.
(3) Develop a pilot program for the use of videoconferencing technology in visa interviews with low-risk visa applicants and visa applicants with urgent or time sensitive travel. Videoconferencing technology has advanced significantly in recent years and can adequately serve both the security and operational needs of visa processing.
(4) Allow certain low-risk visa holders who are currently in the U.S. to renew their visa while staying in the U.S. Currently, many visa holders are required to exit the country before renewing their visas which adds inefficient and unnecessary barriers to renewal and contributes to increased wait times abroad.
(5) Conduct group appointments for visa applicants seeking to visit the U.S. to participate in large international conventions, trade shows, meetings, or events.
These steps are needed to increase international business and leisure travel, restart student and cultural exchanges, strengthen our global leadership, and accelerate our nation's economic recovery. We urge you to include these recommendations in State Department treatment of visitor and worker visas while giving full consideration to homeland security priorities. Thank you for your consideration and we look forward to your timely response.