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US simplifies visa applications for Chinese

By Zheng Yangpeng (China Daily)

09:47, February 10, 2012

BEIJING - Starting from next Monday, qualified non-immigrant Chinese applicants to the United States can renew their visas without undergoing another interview if their visas expired less than 48 months ago, under a pilot program announced on Thursday by US Ambassador Gary Locke.

The new initiative includes B (temporary visitors for business and pleasure), C1 (transit), F (students), J (exchange visitors) and other categories, covering 95 percent of the total visas issued by the US embassy and consulates across China, according to Locke.

The previous policy only allowed an interview waiver within 12 months of the expiration date.

In a few months, the former US embassy building in Beijing will be reopened, increasing the embassy's interviewing capacity by 50 percent.

The average waiting time for an interview has been reduced to less than 6 days.

"We expect that this will benefit tens of thousands of applicants in China, saving them time and money, and making it easier for them to travel to the United States more frequently," Locke told reporters.

On Jan 19, US President Barack Obama signed an executive order to significantly increase travel and tourism to the US, with the goal of increasing visa-processing capacity in China by up to 40 percent in 2012.

This goal, combined with previous measures announced by the US embassy to streamline the application process to allow Chinese applicants to be interviewed in a more efficient manner, is the country's latest effort to attract more visitors from emerging economies, such as China, to boost the ailing US economy, said industry observers.

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