Brazil ranks as the fourth largest source of overseas visitors to the United States with 1.5 million visits in 2011, which represents a 26% increase from 2010 said the State Department in a release. With these figures on the table “the Department of State is taking action to expand the already extensive ties between our nations”.
Visa issuances to Brazilians tripled between 2006 and 2011, and are on pace for significant gains in 2012. As of February, visa processing was up 57% in 2012 from the same timeframe in 2011.
The Department of Commerce forecasts that 2.8 million Brazilians will travel to the United States in 2016, an increase of 87% from 2011. Visa interview wait times have dropped dramatically in Brazil, and now average just two weeks or less in Brasilia, Recife, and Rio de Janeiro, and 35 days or less in Sao Paulo.
The Department of State also announced the opening of new consulate offices in Belo Horizonte and Porto Alegre which are important economic and cultural centres for the states of Minas Gerais and Rio Grande do Sul.
“These consulates will facilitate travel and trade to support job and economic growth in both the United States and Brazil, and will further expand the breadth and depth of the U.S.-Brazil relationship”.
With this purpose the State Department is investing approximately 40 million dollars in 2012 on existing facilities – adding interview windows, expanding office space, and improving waiting areas – all with the goal of improving service to Brazilian visa applicants.
To address immediate growth in demand, the Department of State is sending dozens of consular officers from all over the world to Brazilian posts to adjudicate visa applications.
Between August and December 2011, 82 temporary duty officers arrived in Brazil, who issued more than 135,000 visas to Brazilian travellers. The Department of State is doubling the number of diplomats performing consular work in Brazil over the next year, to ensure that the United States can continue to offer timely visa services to qualified Brazilian applicants.
Finally the Department of State is implementing a pilot program in which consular officers may waive in-person interviews for certain qualified individuals, such as those renewing their visas within 48 months of the expiration of their previous visas, and Brazilians below the age of 16 and age 66 and older. Because security is paramount, consular officers may interview any visa applicant in any category. Nonetheless, “this program will benefit thousands of Brazilians who want to visit the United States”.