May 23, 2022

The United States is one of the most popular tourist destinations worldwide. In 2019, only Spain and France had more visiting tourists, likely due to the rich history, architecture, cuisine and culture that these European countries provide.

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The U.S. offers iconic cities such as New York, New Orleans, and San Francisco, as well as abundant national parks, and entertainment meccas like Las Vegas and Nashville. The visitors they draw bring a huge bump to the U.S. economy.

According to Statista:

In 2019, the number of international tourist arrivals to the U.S. stood at almost 80 million after being on the rise for over a decade. Thanks to this influx of visitors and a boost in U.S. travel spending, the travel and tourism industry contributed over 1.1 trillion U.S. dollars to the country’s GDP and supported millions of jobs in 2019.

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COVID, of course, put a temporary halt to tourism worldwide, with many countries closed to visitors during much of the pandemic. Those that remained open had ever-changing rules and requirements, not only to enter these countries, but other rules for those attempting to return to their home countries.

Tourist visas are technically called B1 or B2 visas and are used for non-U.S. residents desiring to travel to the U.S. to conduct business, attend a professional conference, visit family, or simply take a vacation. Residents of 39 specific countries are eligible for a visa waiver, allowing a 90-day stay in the U.S. for business or tourism without having to apply for a visa.

These countries are mainly first-world countries as in most of Europe and a few in Asia and Oceania. Notably absent are countries in the Middle East, Africa, or South America. One might consider this racist or xenophobic but there are also practical concerns over potential terrorism or visitors wanting to travel to the U.S. and never return to their home countries.

Interestingly there are no such concerns over those entering the U.S. through our porous southern border.

Missing from the visa waiver program are the 155 remaining countries where most residents want to simply visit family, take in the Grand Canyon, or enjoy a few shows in Vegas. How can they get to the U.S.?

An interview at a U.S. embassy or consulate is required to obtain a travel visa. This should be easy and straightforward, but it is anything but, a nightmare for those applying for a visa. The average wait time for an appointment is 344 days, almost a year. And that’s only the average.