Facilitating Business Travel to the United States
- The success of the U.S. business community is a priority for the U.S Department of State. We are committed to improving the transparency, efficiency and predictability of the U.S. visa process for foreign employees, customers and potential clients of U.S. companies requiring travel to the United States, while continuing to maintain the highest standards for national security. A number of new procedures are now in place to facilitate the business visa process. In FY-2006 we surpassed FY-2005 volume and issued over 3.4 million tourist and business visas. Statistics from the first half of FY-2007 indicate volume continues to grow.
- We established the Business Visa Center (BVC) to answer visa process questions for U.S. companies who have invited employees or current or prospective business clients and partners to the U.S. Last year the BVC fielded over 5,000 inquiries from U.S. firms, assisting 311,000 prospective travelers with the business visa application process. You can reach the BVC by email at BusinessVisa@State.gov or by phone on (202) 663-3198.
- The State Department travel website - http://travel.state.gov – now provides detailed visa information, including instructions on how to apply, application forms, procedures for scheduling appointments, and postings of visa wait times around the world. All consular office websites worldwide, found at http://usembassy.state.gov, now include visa wait time information as well.
- All visa-issuing U.S. embassies and consulates worldwide now have special procedures to facilitate the processing of business visas for urgent business travelers, when needed, at the request of U.S. companies (see http://usembassy.state.gov for procedures at specific embassies and consulates). In China, for instance, U.S. consular officers last year processed over 18,000 visas through the American Chamber of Commerce Business Facilitation program.
- We provide expedited appointments to holders of the APEC Business Travel Card.
- In addition, we can expedite passports for U.S. business travelers going overseas for a fee. (http://travel.state.gov/passport/get/first/first_831.html).
- The Departments of State and Homeland Security recently established a Private Sector Advisory Committee that includes representatives from the business community. The committee is currently reviewing our visa processes and will make recommendations on improving travel security and visa processing.
- Future plans to improve service this year include an on-line visa application that will be easier to navigate and will eventually link to interview scheduling and payment processes.