By Allen Ai
US ambassador to China Gary Locke has announced a new interview waiver pilot program that is expected to make it easier for Chinese nationals to visit the United States. Under the new program, consular officers will have the power to waive interviews for some qualified non-immigrant applicants who are renewing their visa within 48 months of expiration of their previously held visa.
“We expect that this will benefit tens of thousands of applicants in China, saving them time and money, and making it easier for them to travel to the United States more frequently,” said Locke in a statement posted on the embassy’s website. “It will also free our resources to interview more first-time applicants, and to do so quickly.”
In addition to assigning 50 new consular officers to China to meet increasing demand, the US Embassy also plans to reopen its former consular facility located in Beijing’s diplomatic neighborhood. Doing this would increase the embassy’s interviewing capacity by 50%, said the ambassador.
A worldwide goal set by President Obama to interview 80% of all visa applicants within three weeks of the request for an appointment was already being met in China, added Locke.
Last year, the United States processed over 1 million visa applications in China, up 34 per cent from 2010, making up about 11% of the total visa workload worldwide. Wait times at all US consular posts in China are currently less than 6 days, according to the embassy.