• Andrew Collins

Signed, Sealed and Delivered: China and America Expand Visas

On November 10, an agreement between America and China was announced to increase the duration of tourist and business visas to 10 years and student visas to 5. Previously, visas for nationals of both countries were only valid for a period of 1 year.

In the announcement made by Barack Obama at the APEC summit in Beijing earlier this month, he said that the agreement “will benefit everyone” from students, to tourists and businesses. Last year, 1.8 million Chinese visitors contributed $21 billion to the American economy. It is estimated that America could more than quadruple those numbers thanks to this new agreement.

In the first week alone, it is estimated that the US Consulate General in Shanghai issued 7,000 to 8,000 visas to Chinese nationals. However, US Officials have stressed that this visa doesn’t mean the holder can stay in the US for 10 years, rather it entitles the holder to multiple entries over a 10 year period.

So what does this mean for Chinese nationals? Visa application waiting times have been a topic of debate for many years, with Chinese people complaining of lengthy processing times. This process won’t be any faster, however it will eliminate the need to endure the tedious application process each year. The United States is a country that many Chinese nationals have interest in visiting and the new visa could conveniently turn that dream into reality. In the past, it has been easier for Chinese people to obtain visas to Europe, Asia and Africa. The difficulty in obtaining a visa could be a contributing factor to why America currently only accounts for 2 percent of China’s outbound tourism industry.

Recent statistics show that Chinese tourists have spent around $70 billion on overseas travel in the first half of this year alone, an increase of 20.7 percent from same period last year. One third of all expenses are made up from the purchase of luxury goods from brands such as Prada, Rolex and Chanel. A study, conducted late last year by Morgan Stanley, looked extensively at luxury companies. It’s estimated that as many as 100 million Chinese will be travelling abroad by the end of 2015 and could be spending up to $194 billion per year.

This long term, reciprocal commitment is an attempt to bolster trade and travel between the two countries. The agreement is said to serve the mutual interests of both China and America, easing the barriers of entry between the two countries. The flexibility that comes with the 10-year visa may be the catalyst for a strong and prosperous relationship for all involved in the travel and tourism industry.

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