The USA and China have agreed to extend the validity of visas for each other’s citizens.
Effective 12 November 2014, the two countries will offer longer stays for American and Chinese travellers on short-term business and tourist visas, plus student and exchange visas.
As a result, Chinese citizens who qualify for a B-category non-immigrant visa to the US will now be issued multiple-entry visas for up to 10 years for business and tourist travel.
Meanwhile, Chinese students and exchange visitors who qualify for F-, M-, or J-category visas are now eligible for multiple-entry visas valid for up to five years, or the length of their studies.
The same durations are applicable for US citizens visiting China on the corresponding visa types.
“The reciprocal extension of visa validity to 10 years for short-term business and tourist travel between China and the United States will increase travel and exchanges, enhance mutual understanding between our countries, and benefit our economies by increasing the ease of trade and investment. Ten years is the longest visa validity possible under US law,” the US State Department said in a statement.
“This new arrangement will be more convenient and less costly for travellers,” it added.
Before the rules were changed, both Chinese and American travellers had to apply annually when visiting the other country.
China is the fastest-growing major visitor source market for the US. A total of 1.81 million Chinese nationals visited the US in 2013, up 23% year-on-year.
China also accounted for the largest number of non-immigrant visa applications to the US, with 1.95 million being processed on the 2014 fiscal year. This represents 14% of the total number of applications. Chinese nationals also comprise the largest group of overseas students in the US, with more than 316,000 student and exchange visitor visa applications being processed in 2014 – 12% more than the previous fiscal year.
Several major US airlines, including American, United and Delta, have welcomed the new rules.
“China is a fast-growing economy and this agreement will open up travel that will drive economic benefits in the US. We urge continued work with other countries to further remove burdensome restrictions on travel,” commented United’s chairman, president & CEO, Jeff Smisek.