NRF encourages Visa reform to up foreigner spending at U.S. stores

Washington, D.C. -- The National Retail Federation said Thursday it welcomed legislation that would require the State Department to speed up the visa application process for citizens from three key countries, saying the move would make it easier for tourists and business travelers to spend money in U.S. stores.

“U.S. retailers and other businesses are missing out on billions of dollars in sales every year because foreigners who want to come here and spend money in our stores are being told to stand in line at our embassies overseas,” NRF senior VP government relations David French said. “We are asking that the State Department be required to provide adequate personnel, technology and other resources so these applications can be processed in a timely manner. We want to see these yuan, rupees and reals put to work creating jobs and boosting the economy in the United States, not spent elsewhere because it’s too hard to get a U.S. visa. Congress needs to move as quickly as possible to see this legislation signed into law.”

The Senate Appropriations Committee is meeting later on Thursday to consider a State Department funding bill that would require the department to hire sufficient staff in China, Brazil and India in order to allow visa applications to be processed in no more than 30 days. It can currently take as long as 120 days in China and 145 days in Brazil for applicants to receive an interview for a visa.

The bill also requires the State Department to conduct a cost-benefit analysis of waiving the visa interview requirement for people who are renewing a visa that has expired within the past two years. It would also give the State Department discretion to establish a pilot program to use videoconferencing rather than requiring that the interviews take place in person, and the department would be required to submit a report to Congress on its efforts to speed up the process.

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