Visa Wait Times Are Slowing Down Recovery for U.S. Tourism
International inbound travel to the U.S. could slow down next year, and not only because of economic concerns. Long wait times for first-time visitor visa applicants have reached wait times up to 800 days in some countries, the U.S. Travel Association says. The information comes from its latest travel forecast.
The previous report, which was completed in June, predicts this year’s international visitor volume would be about 67% of the pre-pandemic levels in 2019. The pre-pandemic number of visitors was 79.4 million.
That number has now been lowered to 63% for this year, or 50.2 million visitors. The new report also lowered its estimate for 2023 visitor volume from 82% of the pre-pandemic number to 75%. That’s 8 million less international visitors and $28 billion in spending across 2022 and 2023.
If these predictions hold true, the U.S. tourism economy is projected to recover fully from the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2025.
Long interview wait times for first-time visitor visa applicants are party to blame the association says. In countries like Brazil, India and Mexico can be as long as 400 to 800 days. In fact, the average wait time for first-time visitor visa applicants from the top ten source countries for international arrivals is now over 400 days.
According to U.S. Travel, the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Travel and Tourism Strategy’s goal of welcoming 90 million international visitors by 2027 is being slowed by these visa issues.