The Department of State, being dedicated to the protection of American borders and the safety of American citizens, has 222 visa-issuing embassies, worldwide, that adjudicate millions of visa applications each year. The U.S. recognizes the importance of international travel to the American domestic economy and is taking steps to keep up with the demand for visas; a consular officer may interview over 100 visa applicants per day. Over 9.6 million visas were processed in the 2011 fiscal year. That is a 17% increase in processed visas from the previous fiscal year. The past five years has brought a 234% increase in visa issuances in Brazil, 124% increase in China, 51% increase in India, and a 24% increase in Mexico. The Department of Commerce reports that of the 60 million visitors to the U.S. last year, 35% entered with State Department issued visa. This international travel generated $134 billion in revenue and helped to support 1.1 million U.S. jobs last year. The Department of Commerce also estimates that by 2016, the number of U.S. visitors could reach 88 million.
In order to meet the growing demand of visas, more personnel and resources are being dedicated to visa adjudications especially in China and Brazil in the fiscal year 2012. In China and Brazil, 98 adjudicators are being hired, many of whom already speak Mandarin or Portuguese, as well as expanding facilities at which visas can be processed and applicants can be interviewed.
Student visa interview appointments have wait times less than 15 days. These visas are prioritized because of the social, intellectual, and economic benefits that foreign students bring to the U.S. Foreign students contributed almost $20 billion to the domestic economy in the 2009-10 academic year.
Procedures to expedite interview appointment for urgent business travelers have been established with U.S. officials working closely in more than 100 countries to cut down the processing times for business travelers. More than 3,500 business visa requests were handled by the United States State Department’s Business Visa Center facilities in fiscal year 2011.