Applications expected to increase 15-20 per cent this year to 100,000, prompting consulate to make process more hassle-free
With applications expected to increase 15-20 per cent on last year to a projected 100,000 this year, the consulate announced on Wednesday that local residents would be allowed to skip the mandatory interview stage when renewing their tourist, business or student visas.
“There’s an increasing demand in going to the US … from Hong Kong,” the consulate’s non-immigrant visas chief, Alex Ave-Lallemant, said.
“We anticipate a further increase in demand and are trying to be as proactive as possible.”
There were 80,000-90,000 applicants last year, 10 per cent up from 2014.
Consulate officials would not explain the higher demand, but noted the US was a popular destination for students from Hong Kong, with 8,000 of them applying for visas in 2014.
Hongkongers with ties to the US and Canada were also applying for visas to visit family, they added.
American officials cited the need to stimulate commerce between the US and Hong Kong among the reasons for fast-tracking the visa process.
The new visa renewal programme has been trialled over the past few weeks, with 30 per cent of last week’s applicants going through it.
Applicants who have held a US visa at some time within the last 10 years no longer have to be interviewed when applying for a renewal, but fingerprints are requested alongside the requisite documents.
Officials said the new system would boost efficiency by at least 30 per cent, cutting down the increasingly long queues and waiting times at the consulate.
The service is already available at consulates in larger countries and on the mainland, but has not previously been available at the Hong Kong mission, which also processes visa applications from Macau.
In the June and July peak season, the consulate receives around 10,000 applications, with numbers shrinking slightly in the winter months.
But consular officials again made it clear there would be no visa-free access for Hong Kong SAR passport holders, saying the city’s legal framework would not allow it.
Source: South China Morning Post