The U.S. has increasingly become an unfriendly place to visit, and that was even before the pandemic. And of course things became even harder thanks to stupid Covid-19 policies. For instance, for well over a year the U.S. allowed unvaccinated Peruvians and Russians to enter the country despite some of the most crushing effects of virus in those places. Yes for most of 2021 vaccinated Europeans who tested negative for the virus were kept out.
When a vaccine requirement for travel to the U.S. by non-residents was imposed, vaccinated Russians weren’t welcome (because the Sputnik vaccine wasn’t on the approved list) while the no better Chinese Sinopharm and Sinovac vaccines counted (the World Health Organization said there was no evidence the Sinovac vaccine reduced infection or transmission – at all).
While the U.S. still has a vaccine requirement for non-residents to travel here, we’re coming out the era of pandemic restrictions generally. But we’re not becoming a friendly place to travel. In fact we’re largely becoming worse.
The U.S. Visa Waiver Program actually requires asking for advance permission to come, which means it is basically a visa non-waiver program. Fortunately for people eligible to use this program they do not have to go through the full process, or an in-person interview.
However for those who do need a visa the average wait times are mind bogglingly absurd. The wait time in Mexico City? Over 500 days.
Waiting times for a US visa have reached absurd lengths.
American businesses will lose out on talent.
American universities will lose out on students.
American tourism will lose out on customers.
Huge problem that needs to be fixed ASAP: pic.twitter.com/ccoh5SvXHB
— Alec Stapp (@AlecStapp) August 22, 2022
To be sure there are different wait times for different visas. For instance student visas are going to jump the queue, so U.S. universities (which have faced declining enrollment because of the pandemic and distance learning and because of pandemic travel restrictions) aren’t largely missing out on students due to visa processing wait times.
And U.S. ESTA rules, which allow requesting permission to travel to the U.S. electronically, were narrowed late in the Trump administration so that previous visits to places like Iran are disqualifying. That means more people have to apply for visas than before.
But solving this should be a priority for the U.S. There’s no reason for many people from many countries to have to present themselves in person, and people who are already here shouldn’t be required to leave to renew their visas.
The U.S. by the way is also a terrible place to connect traveling from one country to another since you’re required to go through immigration and customers and have permission to enter the U.S. just to transit. But that’s something of a harder fix, though the federal government should give the go-ahead for secure transfer and allow airports to invest in making this possible too.