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Office to grow for US visa applications

By Dong Zhen (Shanghai Daily)

10:02, December 22, 2011

THE US Consulate General in Shanghai is preparing to expand its office capacity to cope with the fast growth of US visa applications.

The local consular section officials said construction is to kick off very soon to expand its visa-application facility inside the Westgate Mall on Nanjing Road W.

"The Consular Section in Shanghai is committed to increasing its ability to handle the exponential growth in visa application numbers. We have recently signed a lease to expand our current consular facility in order to increase our capacity to interview more applicants on a daily basis," the US Consul General in Shanghai Robert Griffiths said yesterday.

Nick Larsen, the local non-immigrant visa chief, added that visa applicants need not fear longer wait times or any other disturbances during the construction period because it will take place in another part of the office floor.

Larsen told Shanghai Daily the expansion is expected to at least double the current ability to handle visa applications, as the number of interview windows will be increased from nine to 20. He said the office is preparing to land more visa interview officers and staff to facilitate the capacity boost. The effort means great relief to crowded conditions during busy application seasons.

The officials said they would have the project completed as soon as possible to help cope with the rapid growth in visa applications.

The success rate for non-immigrant visa applications from the Shanghai office has improved to above 90 percent, nearly the highest among all the US consular sections in China, with the applicants mainly coming from Shanghai and its nearby Zhejiang, Jiangsu and Anhui provinces, according to the local consular section.

Applicants from this region turn out to be well-traveled and well-educated and such qualities tend to make them "naturally qualified" to be approved, Larsen explained.

He noted that the local consular section follows the same visa application screening rules as other sections in China.

Applications in China this year increased by a "phenomenal" 34 percent over last year to more than 1 million, according to the US authority.

About 30 percent of these applications were handled by the Shanghai consular section, officials said.

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