Visa wait times drop, but issues linger

Even with decreased visa wait times and an increasing number of countries being added to the Visa Waiver Program, the U.S. still has its share of issues welcoming international travelers.

A few years ago, wait times just to get an interview appointment to apply for a visa could stretch out to 120 days for persons who wanted to come to the U.S. By increasing staffing in many of the areas most affected — including China and Brazil — many of those waits have been cut significantly. In Bangkok, citizens can get an interview in 15 days. If you live in Amsterdam, there’s a 23-day delay, and Buenos Aires residents only have to wait two days.

“Facilitating travel to the United States from legitimate visitors is one of our highest priorities,” Ed Ramotowski, deputy assistant secretary at the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs, said.

In fiscal year 2012, the Department of State issued almost 9 million visas worldwide, signifying almost a 19 percent increase globally. In China and Brazil, the demand increased 34 percent.

Ramotowski was in Las Vegas this week for the U.S. Travel Association’s trade show, IPW.

“There’s nothing comparable to coming to the United States, meeting Americans, seeing this country with your own eyes to build friends and allies for us around the world. It’s the gift that keeps on giving. And when you also consider how much it means to our economy, particularly in regions such as Las Vegas, it’s a win-win situation,” he said Wednesday.

The international travel industry generates over $168 billion in economic activity for the U.S. each year, and overseas visitors spend an average of $4,500 per trip. In 2012, 17 percent of the 39.7 million visitors who came to Las Vegas hailed from other countries. The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority has a goal to increase that to 30 percent by 2022.

Even though visa wait times have decreased, there are still issues at U.S. borders. With the influx of travelers has come increased wait times at borders and customs.

“Homeland Security has a problem in that border demand is increasing but the number of officers they have available to process travelers has been stable. Because of sequestration and budget challenges, they’re not able to increase their staff,” Ramotowski said.

With sequestration there are restrictions on overtime, too, so their ability to deal with increasing numbers is limited.

Thus far in June, the longest wait for customs at McCarran International Airport was 67 minutes. The highest average wait is 34 minutes. As for the longest wait at a border on Wednesday, the Niagra Falls crossing took 55 minutes. Many crossings had no wait at all, but still others took about 20 minutes to get travelers through Wednesday.

And while still working on entry issues, the government’s Visa Waiver Program continues to prove fruitful.

Taiwan joined in November 2012, making it the newest country added. Most of Europe is in the program, and many major Asian countries including Japan, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand.

The Secretary of State recently nominated Chile for inclusion, which would enable Chilean nationals to enter the U.S. visa-free. If added, Chile would join 37 other nations in the program that allows citizens of participating countries to travel to the U.S. visa free for stays of up to 90 days for business or leisure.

When countries are added to the program, “It’s like opening up a faucet of people who want to come here,” Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association, said.

Of Chile, Ramotowski said, “We’re confident they’ll make the changes they need to make to join.”

The Visa Waiver requirements are set by law. In the Chilean case, the country needs to switch to using an electronic chip in their passport, which they plan to do in September.

“That’s the last major hurdle they would have, then the (Department of Homeland Security) team can go out there and look at the overall security situation,” Ramotowski said.

Contact reporter Laura Carroll at lcarroll@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-4588. Follow @lscvegas on Twitter.

ad-high_impact_4
Business
Opendoor isn't the typical house flipping company
Unlike most house flippers, the company aims to make money from transaction costs rather than from selling homes for more than their purchase price.
The Venetian gondoliers sing Italian songs
Gondolier Marciano sings a the classic Italian song "Volare" as he leads guests through the canals of The Venetian in Las Vegas. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Building In Logandale
Texas homebuilder D.R. Horton bought 43 lots in rural Logandale. (Eli Segall/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Indoor farming in Southern Nevada
Experts discuss Nevada's indoor farming industry. (Bailey Schulz/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Former Fontainebleau could have become a Waldorf Astoria
Months after developer Steve Witkoff bought the Fontainebleau last summer, he unveiled plans to turn the mothballed hotel into a Marriott-managed resort called The Drew. But if Richard “Boz” Bosworth’s plans didn’t fall through, the north Las Vegas Strip tower could have become a Waldorf Astoria with several floors of timeshare units. (Eli Segall/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
LVCVA CEO Rossi Ralenkotter announces plans to retire
Rossi Ralenkotter, CEO of the LVCVA, on Tuesday confirmed a Las Vegas Review-Journal report that he is preparing to retire. Richard N. Velotta/ Las Vegas Review-Journal
Cousins Maine Lobster to open inside 2 Las Vegas Smith’s stores
Cousins Maine Lobster food truck company will open inside Las Vegas’ two newest Smith’s at Skye Canyon Park Drive and U.S. Highway 95, and at Warm Springs Road and Durango Drive. Cousins currently sells outside some Las Vegas Smith’s stores and at Fremont Street and Las Vegas Boulevard. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas home prices to continue to rise, expert says
Lawrence Yun, chief economist at the National Association of Realtors, gives homebuyers a pulse on the Las Vegas housing market. (Eli Segall/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
NV Energy announces clean energy investment
The company is planning to add six solar projects in Nevada, along with the state's first major battery energy storage capacity. Bailey Schulz/Las Vegas Review-Journal
3 Mario Batali restaurants on Las Vegas Strip to close
Days after new sexual misconduct allegations were made against celebrity chef Mario Batali, his company announced Friday that it will close its three Las Vegas restaurants July 27. Employees of Carnevino Italian Steakhouse, B&B Ristorante and Otto Enoteca e Pizzeria, all located in The Venetian and Palazzo resorts, were informed of the decision Friday morning. Bastianich is scheduled to visit the restaurants Friday to speak to employees about the next two months of operation as well as how the company plans to help them transition to new positions.
Nevada has its first cybersecurity apprenticeship program
The Learning Center education company in Las Vegas has launched the first apprenticeship program for cybersecurity in Nevada. It was approved by the State Apprenticeship Council on May 15. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas union members voting to authorize the right to strike
Thousands of Las Vegas union members voting Tuesday morning to authorize the right to strike. A “yes” vote would give the union negotiating committee the power to call a strike anytime after June 1 at the resorts that fail to reach an agreement. (Todd Prince/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Small businesses struggle to find qualified candidates
A 2018 survey found that over two-thirds of small businesses in Nevada find it somewhat to very difficult to recruit qualified candidates. Bailey Schulz/Las Vegas Review-Journal
Nevada secretary of state website offers little protection against fraudulent business filings
Property developer Andy Pham tells how control of his business was easily seized by another person using the secretary of state website.
Caesars may be going solo in its marijuana policy
Several Southern Nevada casino companies aren’t following Caesars Entertainment’s lead on marijuana testing.
How much is the Lucky Dragon worth?
Less than a year-and-a-half after it opened, the Lucky Dragon was in bankruptcy.
Gyms and discount stores take over empty retail spaces
Grocery stores used to draw people to shopping centers. But many large retail spaces have been vacant since 2008. Discount stores like goodwill and gyms like EOS Fitness are filling those empty spaces, and helping to draw shoppers back in. K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal
Funding source of Las Vegas stadium for the Raiders is sound, expert says
The stadium is funded in part by $750 million of room taxes, the biggest such tax subsidy ever for a professional sports stadium. Robert Lang, executive director of Brookings Mountain West and The Lincy Institute at UNLV, says that is a good use of public funds. (Richard Velotta/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas needs light rail, expert says
Robert Lang, executive director of Brookings Mountain West and the Lincy Institute said he is afraid of a "congestion mobility crisis." Las Vegas needs a light rail system, he said, to accommodate the city's growing number of attractions. (Richard Velotta/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Three takeaways from Wynn Resorts' Earnings Call
Matt Maddox came out swinging in his first earnings conference call as Wynn Resorts chief executive officer, boasting of record Las Vegas quarterly revenues and applicants lining up for work.
Star Wars VR Comes to Las Vegas
Sneak peak at the new "Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire" VR experience at the Grand Canal Shoppes.
Elaine Wynn continues her fight to change Wynn Resorts board
Elaine Wynn, the largest shareholder of Wynn Resorts Ltd., is seeking to kick a friend of her ex-husband Steve Wynn off the company’s board of directors. (Todd Prince/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Zillow is getting into house flipping in Las Vegas
Las Vegas Review-Journal real estate reporter Eli Segall says flipping houses has waned in popularity after the housing bubble burst.
Ellis Island Buys Mt. Charleston Lodge
Ellis Island, which operates a casino, brewery and hotel just off the Strip, purchased the Mt. Charleston Lodge in early April.
Casinos to be penalized for allowing drug-impaired customers to gamble
Nevada Gaming Commission Chairman Tony Alamo talks about an amendment making casinos subject to the same disciplinary standards of preventing people to gamble if impaired by drugs as they are for letting them play while intoxicated by alcohol.
Terrible Herbst to open large travel center in Southern Nevada
The 50,000-square-foot commercial travel center will include 96 fuel pumps and the third White Castle restaurant in Southern Nevada. Wade Tyler Millward reports.
Art Bell’s Top 10 Shows
A selection of radio host Art Bell’s most popular shows.
Hooters owner talks about room upgrades at his hotel-casino
George Ruff, founder and senior principal of Trinity Hotel Investors L.L.C., owner of Hooters Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, talks about recent room upgrades at the hotel. K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal
Passengers Discuss Allegiant Air
Allegiant Air passengers voice their views on the airline at McCarran International Airport on April 16, 2018. (Bailey Schulz/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Longtime Las Vegas attorney John Momot dies at age 74
Criminal defense attorney John Momot, who represented mob figures and even played himself in the movie “Casino,” has died.
TOP NEWS
News Headlines
ad-infeed_1
ads_infeed_2
Local Spotlight
Home Front Page Footer Listing
Circular
You May Like

You May Like