Inos welcomes development
President Barrack Obama announced yesterday that the U.S. and China has struck a deal on a reciprocal visa validity arrangement that extends visas for Chinese visitors to the United States for up to 10 years and vice versa for American tourists visiting China.
Acting press secretary Ivan A. Blanco said this latest development would hopefully benefit the CNMI’s burgeoning tourism industry, which counts China as one of its primary markets.
“This level of support from the White House bodes well for the CNMI considering our close proximity to Asian countries like China. We welcome this news,” Blanco said.
Tourists from China now comprise the largest group of visitors to the Commonwealth, growing from just over 112,000 in 2013 to over 157,000 this year, according to Marianas Visitors Authority data.
Chinese visitors formed 36 percent of total visitor arrivals in the 2014 fiscal year, which is a 40-percent increase compared to the same period in 2013.
A media release from the U.S. Department of Commerce said the deal extends the validity of short-term tourist and business visas issued to Chinese citizens traveling to the United States from one to 10 years —the longest validity possible under U.S. law. It also increases the validity of student and exchange visas from one to five years. The deal also applies to Americans traveling to China.
“Tourism is America’s largest services export and growth in international visitors has created roughly 260,000 American jobs over the past five years. …This is smart reform that will boost our economy and create jobs,” said U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker.
The U.S. will begin issuing visas in accordance with the new reciprocal agreement on Nov. 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.
“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,” said Pritzker.
Extended validity visas for students and exchange visitors are expected to boost the bonds between American and Chinese people and facilitate travel for outstanding students from around the world who attend U.S. institutions of higher education.
Travelers will continue to be subject to all the same legal and security reviews that currently apply to visa applicants.
“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,” added Pritzker.
US carriers applaud move
In a statement, Delta Air Lines CEO Richard Anderson praised Obama for this latest development.
“This agreement between the U.S. and China…will provide a significant economic boost to the U.S., and is expected to create hundreds of thousands of jobs nationwide,” Anderson said. “China is becoming an increasingly important travel and tourism partner with the U.S., and this is an essential step in ensuring that the United States receives the economic benefits.”
United Airlines chairman, president, and CEO Jeff Smisek also issued a statement yesterday approving the new agreement.
“As a global company with an important China route network, we support agreements that simplify travel and remove obstacles for our customers,” Smisek said. “China is a fast-growing economy and this agreement will open up travel that will drive economic benefits in the U.S. We urge continued work with other countries to further remove burdensome restrictions on travel.”
United provides frequent service to mainland China points of Beijing, Chengdu and Shanghai which can benefit from the new visa policy. In addition, United provides multiple daily flights to Hong Kong from the U.S.