According to a key U.S. travel industry association, the average wait period for a U.S. visa interview for visitors from the top ten international visa-requiring nations is more than 400 days or more than a year.
“Wait times are still excessively high despite marked improvements in countries like India,” said U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Geoff Freeman. According to the US State Department, the waiting period in India for a visa interview has decreased from 999 days in mid-December to 577 days as of January 19.
Other top-10 markets with “staggering” wait times, such as Brazil and Mexico, are also improving, according to the group. Despite this, “more effort has to be done to reduce interview wait times down to an acceptable level” following pandemic-related interruptions, according to Freeman.
The stakes are high for the US tourism industry, which might be a bright light in an otherwise bleak American economy this year. The US Travel Association estimates that total worldwide travel spending will be roughly $93 billion in 2022, excluding education and health-related expenses. This is in comparison to $180 billion in pre-pandemic 2019. According to the group, domestic and international travelers spent roughly $1.1 trillion in the United States last year, which is about 10% less than in 2019.
According to the group, the US has attempted to decrease the long wait for a visa interview by eliminating criteria for low-risk renewals of tourist, worker, and student visas.
Still, the association said, a four-month, 120-day wait would “far exceed what the economy needs for robust inbound travel recovery.” For instance, from 2012 to 2017, an executive order mandated that 80% of nonimmigrant visa applications worldwide be interviewed within 21 days.
Total international trips to the United States in 2022 are expected to exceed 50 million, according to the group, using US Department of Commerce estimates. This is up from 22 million in 2021 and 79 million in 2019. Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, India, Brazil, Columbia, South Korea, and Spain were the top ten sources of tourists to the United States in 2022.