Strategic Dialogue on International Travel: Exceeding the President's Travel and Tourism Goals

Posted by Janice L. Jacobs
October 2, 2012
Travelers Walk Through the Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport

As the Assistant Secretary for Consular Affairs, I had the distinct pleasure today of briefing leaders from the travel and tourism industry on the strides we and our partners have made in transforming how we facilitate travel by legitimate visitors to the United States, while maintaining the highest standards of border security. My remarks were part of a half-day Strategic Dialogue on International Travel to review the progress we have made in meeting and exceeding the President's travel and tourism goals.

You see, our consular officers in 222 visa issuing posts around the world have always understood that they are often the first and only interaction a foreigner will have with a U.S citizen. The visa process protects our borders, but it is also an integral part of our public face beyond those borders. This is why we are working harder than ever to make that process straightforward, clear, and as applicant-focused as possible, without compromising security.

Worldwide, we have boosted our visa interviewing capacity and in key markets like China and Brazil have absorbed increases in demand of more than 37 percent. At the same time as demand has risen, we have driven down wait times for visa interview appointments so that worldwide, almost 90 percent of applicants get their appointment within three weeks. In China and Brazil that wait is just five days and two days respectively. And guess what? This year our consular operations in China and Brazil processed more than one million visa applications each, and just last week, Mission Mexico processed its two millionth visa application.

So why does this matter for the United States? Well, all this hard work is allowing millions more foreign visitors than ever to come to the United States. Travel and tourism represent our largest service export. Our work supports the legitimate travel of qualified applicants who create jobs. In addition, more frequent travel to the United States means increased investment and stronger bilateral ties on the basis of mutually beneficial cooperation.

We have made great progress, but we're not done yet. We will continue to work with our partners in the Department of Homeland Security and other agencies to develop a long-term strategy to address future challenges in managing visa workload. And we look forward to the continued support and collaboration of the travel and tourism industry partners we met with today as we move into the future.

As we move forward, border security will remain job number one. It will always be our highest priority. The visa function exists to protect citizens, residents, and visitors alike from those who would do us harm. As we remain vigiliant, we will also remain creative, committed, and forward-looking, seeking new efficiencies and new approaches to the work that we do.

Related Content: Progress Report on Improvements to Visa and Foreign Visitor Processing



October 3, 2012

Susanna in Armenia writes:

I highly appreciate above mentioned strategic dialogue on international travel,aimed to exceed the PRESIDENT's travel and tourism goals.The certain steps You undertake will only strengthen the ties,will develop mutually beneficial cooperation and peace based on mutual understanding,respect and love between the countries all over the world. In 1999 I had a chance to get visa,but unfortunately I couldn't use it cause of my mother's health state.I am so sorry about that.I wonder can I have the second chance to get visa. I have learned so much about America during my study at the university and will be happy to see it in my own eyes.I have great doubt that I'll have the response and anyway,thank you so much for the positive,useful steps,decision.Let GOD bless you,AMEN!

Thomas D.
New Jersey, USA
October 4, 2012

Thomas D. in New Jersey writes:

Secretary Jacobs, you are well aware of the problem of International Parental Child Abduction (IPCA) yet your remarks do not mention it. Should not a Strategic Dialogue on International Travel include a policy that addresses this problem since in almost every case of child abduction a child was made to travel across international border, usually without the consent of one of its parents?

Carlos B.
North Carolina, USA
October 8, 2012

Carlos B. in North Carolina writes:

Totally unsurprising that the Bureau of Consular Affairs would write a blog on the issues involved in international travel and totally leave out the topic of parental child trafficking, and why not? After decades of minimizing and marginalizing the issue without significant consequences like having its status as the "Central Authority" for the USA with regard to the Hague Abduction Convention revoked, State generally, and the Bureau of Consular Affairs specifically, has little incentive to do so (having long established that the welfare of the children is not a compelling factor in and off itself.)

Mossad A.
October 31, 2012

Mossad A. writes:

You,r help me to send me my visa travel,please.

Massachusetts, USA
November 6, 2012

Becky in Massachusetts writes:

Secretary Jacobs,

I am sadly not surprised that you mention how border security is important, yet you do not mention exit controls or the major issue of international parental child abduction. Exit controls would be a simple measure to minimize the number of children illegally abducted from the USA by one of their parents as approval from both parents would be required. Furthermore, the Office of Children's Issues (OCI) refuses to provide any documentation to parents in the USA whose children were abducted of when their children left the USA even when the date is documented when the children and abducting parent leave the USA. The USA should place a much higher priority on innocent children by implementing exit controls to make abducting children harder as it now at least would require a notarized document.


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