WASHINGTON, D.C. (Nov. 10, 2014) — President Barack Obama on Monday announced that the United States and the People’s Republic of China are concluding a reciprocal visa validity arrangement that will strengthen our ever-broadening economic and people-to-people ties. Both countries have agreed to increase the validity of short-term tourist and business visas issued to each other’s citizens from one to ten years – the longest validity possible under U.S. law – and increase the validity of student and exchange visas from one to five years. The United States will begin issuing visas in accordance with the new reciprocal agreement on November 12, 2014.
The National Office for Travel and Tourism at the Department of Commerce was integral in helping push for this change, which will improve trade, investment, and business ties by facilitating travel and offering easier access to both economies. Extended validity visas for students and exchange visitors will boost the bonds between our two peoples and facilitate travel for outstanding students from around the world who attend U.S. institutions of higher education. As a result of this arrangement, the United States hopes to welcome a growing share of eligible Chinese travelers, inject billions in the U.S. economy and create enough demand to support hundreds of thousands of additional U.S. jobs.Travelers will continue to be subject to all the same legal and security reviews that currently apply to visa applicants.
The following is a statement from U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker on the agreement:
“Tourism is America’s largest services export and growth in international visitors has created roughly 260,000 American jobs over the past five years. Today in Beijing, the President announced an important new agreement with China that extends the validity of tourist and business visas to ten years and student visas to five years—both for Chinese citizens traveling to the United States and for Americans traveling to China. This is smart reform that will boost our economy and create jobs.
“Prior to this agreement, Chinese citizens had to renew their American business, tourist, and student visas annually and the same applied to American travelers visiting China. With the help of this change, up to 7.3 million Chinese visitors—more than any other country except Canada and Mexico—are projected to visit the United States in 2021, contributing roughly $85 billion per year to our economy and supporting 440,000 American jobs. That is four times as many travelers supporting four times as many American jobs as compared to last year.
“We have worked with many American business leaders who told us how valuable this change will be for their companies, their communities and our economy. I am pleased that our National Travel and Tourism Office here at the Department of Commerce was able to partner with our Administration colleagues to make this reform a reality. Simply put, getting this done is a big deal that will create more American jobs and keep our economy moving forward.”
U.S. Sen. Mazie K. Hirono applauded the announcement.
“The longer visas for Chinese travelers is a game-changer for Hawaii’s visitor industry and something I’ve pushed for a long time,” said Senator Hirono. “China is the fastest growing tourism market in the world. With this change, Hawaii can expect more new and repeat visitors from China. Chinese visitors are Hawaii’s highest spending visitor group, which means a stronger economy and more local jobs.”
“This visa extension agreement between the U.S. and China will serve to strengthen China as a tourism channel which, of course, positively impacts businesses in Hawaii in terms of increased revenue and more jobs for our residents,” said Chamber of Commerce Hawaii President Sherry Menor-McNamara. “This agreement also bodes well for our manufacturing in Hawaii initiative through which we are working to increase our state’s export opportunities to reach the 1.3 billion market that China represents, as well as increase supplier opportunities for products manufactured in Hawaii.”
Hirono long championed measures to boost tourism to Hawaii. In April 2013, the Senate immigration bill included key provisions from Senator Hirono’s VISIT USA Act, a bipartisan bill she introduced while serving in the U.S. House of Representatives that included longer visas for Chinese visitors.