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US borders open for priority expats as visa controls ease

The USA is opening up borders to more expats from selected countries by relaxing visa controls.

Immigration officials are expecting a flood of new inquiries from several countries and warn visa process times may slow.

US visa applications from a list of ‘preferred’ countries will jump to the top of the processing list as a matter of priority, says the US State Department.

The list of countries includes China, Russia, Brazil, India and Nigeria – all countries with fast growing economies and large numbers of students looking for foreign educations.

processing visa applications was listed as a priority by President Barak Obama – and the State Department has just issued a six month progress report.

Presidential order

“Specifically, the President asked us to interview 80% of our visa applicants within three weeks of their application. Worldwide, we’re now interviewing 88% within three weeks compared to only 57% in 2011,” said State Department spokesman Victoria Nuland.

“And in Brazil and China, two of our key target countries, wait times are dramatically down while managing a 37% increase in visa demand this year alone. We also recently hit another milestone in Brazil. In late August, we processed our millionth visa for a Brazilian in 2012.”

Besides Brazil, the only countries with more than a million visa applications a year for the USA are Mexico and China.

The President also directed State Department  to increase visa processing capacity in Brazil and China by 40% in 2012.

“As of June 2012, the US Mission in Brazil had increased processing capacity by 40%, and the U.S. Mission in China will meet the target in China by December 2012. To accomplish this, we created more than 50 new visa adjudicator positions in China and 60 in Brazil, including 43 hired under an innovative program that targets recruits that speak Mandarin and Portuguese,” said Nuland

Pilot program

A pilot program is also underway that lets consular officers to waive in-person interviews for certain nonimmigrant visa applicants who are renewing their visas is operational at 52 visa processing posts in 28 countries. Consular officers have already waived interviews for more than 120,000 of these low-risk visa applicants.

In Nigeria, Consular officer Patty Neary explained the average visa processing time is six months and students in particular should apply at least 120 days before the beginning of their studies.

“Our goal is that every qualified student visa applicant is able to begin his or her programme of study on time,” she said.

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