Every aspect of the travel industry benefits from shorter tourism visa processing times — hotels, guides, tourism boards, airlines, transportation companies, attractions, restaurants, etc.
The US is losing $100B in missed spending and 16M missed visitors due to visa processing delays. Think about the affects on our GDP growth, national and state economies and the entire downstream supply chain.
I had to re-read, and then double and triple check, the current USA visa processing times, I thought it was a typo and the decimal point was in the wrong place.
Nowhere Near Attention the Situation Dictates.
I’m equally surprised how relatively mute (not entirely but relatively mute) — given the universality, gravity, and commercial consequences — the broader US travel industry is about this. Me included. Said another ways, why isn’t everybody talking about this?
We need people discussing this at every level of influence from the individual, to companies, tourism boards, associations, conferences, campaign events, and anywhere else we can bring the topic up to decision makers.
It shouldn’t take 2.5+ years for an Indian citizen to get a visa for the United States. This is one of the fastest growing countries in the world, a political ally to the US, significant commercial ties & interdependencies, with an exploding middle and upper class with growing disposable income, ripe for the US to leverage and benefit from.
Sadly, India isn’t the only country to suffer from severe delays. Here are Global Visa Wait Times (state.gov) across US embassies.
Water is wet, 1+1 is 2. Visa Processing is Broken.
Nobody will visit, nobody will invest, nobody will travel for business, if it takes months, and in some cases, years to get a visa (tourist, business, specialty…).
There are plenty of other countries that are rolling out the red carpet for visitors, investors and businesses in the wake of US visa processing delays. I’m not even focusing on the larger and decade long H1B wait times that is costing the US the critical talent it needs.
Missing Out On $100B in Spending
The amount of money the US and the travel industry is losing is staggering. Much worse than I could ever have imagined.
Approximately $100B a year for visitors from non-visa waiver program countries in missed spending alone.
Countless Visa Delay Stories
One example of countless many others was somebody from S Africa who’s investing $50M USD to buy majority stake in a US company who couldn’t get a visa to close the deal. The deal unraveled, and these investment dollars went elsewhere. Hundreds of jobs were sacrificed.
I remember nearly abandoning a $30M USD investment because the host country (not the US in this case but you can see the parallels) couldn’t process my business visa in time to do the deal. Luckily that came through at the last minute. That’s just 1 deal, a drop in the ocean, amongst all other deals.
Scenarios like these, sadly, are happening every single day for years, all around the world, when it comes to visiting and investing in the US, especially during such economically challenging times where every investment dollar, trade dollar and tourism dollar is critical.
Cannot Wait & See
We don’t have the luxury to let visa delays solve themselves and take a reactive approach to this; the travel industry doesn’t have any time to waste.
The entire US travel industry is losing money every single minute of the day with these delays.
The entire US economy is losing out on foreign revenue and direct investment with these delays.
What Can I Do? Be A Broken Record, Ad-Nauseum.
The non-travel industry “powers that be” should be sick of us talking about visas that they’ll give in just to hear us stop talking about it (fingers crossed).
Every chance we get, everywhere, every time, we need to talk about how long inbound to the US visas take to process. We should be vocally, unabashedly, hyper-focusing on eliminating visa issuance obstacles and bottlenecks.
We need to incorporate fixes in appropriations bills and legislation. It should be an agenda item at every industry and government meeting.
We need to make visa processing a campaign promise and part of any political campaign for every candidate running in the upcoming US elections.
We need to reach out to current State Department, Transportation Department and Homeland Security officials during congressional hearings, during public events, Q&A’s and the like.
Speak up during public meetings and conferences, corner stakeholders after panels, ask questions during webinars; we need to be collectively relentless.
Call your state and national representatives (and where allowed have your employees, vendors, suppliers and customers call).
Our counterparts in foreign countries (their tourism boards, their Dept of State equivalent, their Ministers of Tourism, private visa processing companies…) should continue to lobby for shorter visa processing times to ensure 360-degree pressure from inside and outside of the US.
It takes a continuous, tireless, multi-pronged effort, 1 person at a time, to start the momentum required to address this gargantuan issue.
I know there are many unsung heroes who tirelessly advocate for what I’m describing — I have no doubt about this at all.
I’m hoping the rest of us will keep this top of mind with intention and action, whether inside or outside of the travel industry, until it’s fully addressed.