US Embassy and Consulates in mainland China employ a third-party call center to schedule visa interviews, which incurs a fee of $0.7/minute and extensive traveling cost for buying pre-paid phone cards. This system does not benefit the US government and nourishes corruption.
We the people urge the U.S. Embassy and Consulates to switch to a free online system for visa-scheduling in China. If not, please explain why visa applicants in most other countries and regions can schedule their visa interviews online for free, which is efficient, accurate, and cost-effective.
Response to Petition
By Janice L. Jacobs
Thank you for signing the petition "Switching to a free online visa appointment scheduling system in China" on the We the People platform on WhiteHouse.gov.
We are proud to welcome increasing numbers of Chinese tourists, students, and businesspeople to the United States. Last year, the U.S. Mission to China adjudicated more than one million U.S. visas for Chinese applicants, representing a 34 percent increase over the previous year.
In order to efficiently manage the great demand for visa information and appointment scheduling, the U.S. Mission to China presently uses a third-party provider. The U.S. Department of State employs similar services at many other embassies and consulates throughout the world.
The Department is currently implementing a worldwide Global Support Strategy to modernize the current system of user-pays partnerships, which will eliminate the need for separate fees by including services such as information assistance, appointment scheduling, fee collection, and document delivery as part of the standard applicable visa processing fee. This Global Support Strategy has already been implemented in 35 countries, and a worldwide rollout that includes China should be completed in 2014.
President Obama recently signed an Executive Order calling for a national strategy to make the United States the world's top travel and tourism destination. As part of this strategy, President Obama charged the Department of State with increasing nonimmigrant visa processing capacity in China by 40 percent, and with ensuring that 80 percent of nonimmigrant visa applicants worldwide are interviewed within three weeks of receipt of their applications. In addition, the Department of State is streamlining the nonimmigrant visa process through a pilot program that allows consular officers to waive interviews for some low-risk applicants worldwide who renew their visa within 48 months of the expiration of their previously held visa. You can learn more about the President's Executive Order and this pilot program at the White House website.
More information about visas for travel to the United States can be found on the Department of State website, travel.state.gov.
Janice L. Jacobs is Assistant Secretary for Bureau of Consular Affairs at the Department of State