U.S., China Extend Validity of Visas for Business Travelers

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The United States and China have agreed to new visa terms that will increase travel between the two countries, the Obama Administration reported yesterday.

Under the new "reciprocal visa validity arrangement," the length of short-term tourist and business visas issued to tourists and business travelers of both countries will be extended from one year to 10 years -- the longest period allowable under U.S. law. The length of student visas, meanwhile, will be extended from one year to five years.

"This arrangement will improve trade, investment, and business ties by facilitating travel and offering easier access to both economies," the Administration explained in a press release. "As a result of this arrangement, the United States hopes to welcome a growing share of eligible Chinese travelers, inject billions in the U.S. economy, and create enough demand to support hundreds of thousands of additional U.S. jobs."

According to the White House, Chinese travelers consistently rank the United States as their top desired travel destination. However, only slightly more than 1.8 percent of outbound Chinese travelers go to the United States.

"Chinese travelers cite ease of visa policies as the second most important factor in deciding where to travel, behind only cost," the Administration continued. "A competitive visa policy is needed to secure our place as the chosen destination for millions of Chinese travelers."

The travel industry applauded the agreement.

"This policy move will harness the colossal and growing Chinese travel market for the direct benefit of U.S. job creation, exports, and economic growth. The effects will be both strong and immediate," U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow said in a statement. "Kudos to the Obama Administration for negotiating this deal that will deliver tangible progress towards meeting his strategic objectives. President Obama and his team have long been a receptive audience for policy suggestions that help rev the powerful economic engine that is international travel. The travel community is always heartened and gratified when those proposals become policy reality, as we are with this one."

According to Dow, overseas visitors in general spend an average of $4,500 per trip; Chinese visitors, however, spend $7,200 per trip -- the largest of any country. 

"International travel dollars are some of the best medicine for any economy, and Chinese travel dollars are among the most potent of all for the U.S.," he concluded.

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