Cite Bottleneck in Acquiring Visas that Harms U.S. Business Abroad
Washington, DC – In a letter to President Bush today, 33 business groups urged him to make major changes in the current visa review and application process in order to prevent backlogs and restore the system’s former efficiency. Believing that the current visa system is “broken and needs repair if it is to be both effective and efficient,” the letter called on the President to take steps to streamline the current system “to make it more predictable, timely and transparent.”
The organizations strongly recommended that the President undertake concrete measures to improve the visa review process, including:
Accelerating the conclusion of the bilateral Memorandum of Understanding between the Department of State and the Department of Homeland Security;
Restoring time limits and deadlines to the interagency process of visa review.
“It is time for the White House to step in and take action,” said Bill Reinsch, President of the National Foreign Trade Council. “Meeting after meeting with the agencies involved in visa review has yielded little progress for our associations. We now must rely on the President to initiate immediate changes in what has become over the past year an increasingly inefficient and opaque process that is doing serious damage to the American economy and to America’s image abroad.”
According to the letter, both large and small member companies have grown weary of complaints from overseas customers that doing business with U.S. companies is hardly worth the trouble, due to the overwhelming delays and frustrations in acquiring the proper visas. The business groups concluded: “The simple truth is that our member companies cannot sustain business with overseas customers under these circumstances. That’s bad for American business, bad for American jobs, and bad for U.S. competitiveness in the global market.”
The letter also stated that improving the visa process is the best way to ensure that American business can continue to compete in and benefit from the global marketplace. Full text of the letter follows:
July 10, 2003
The White House
Washington, DC 20500
Dear Mr. President:
America’s open and free economy has been the engine of our democracy for more than 200 years. The United States has earned a strong position in the global marketplace by supporting the free movement of goods, services, ideas and people across borders. The world we live in today poses significant challenges to this fundamental concept; challenges that, if not addressed properly, could undermine America’s standing in the world for decades to come.
Mr. President, one challenge of our own making is the current process for reviewing and approving visa applications for temporary entry into the United States, and we are writing to request your help in making this process efficient and transparent, so that we might avoid further losses to our economy.
At a time when our member companies increasingly rely on international sales as a key component to growth and stability in the marketplace – sales that support high-paying jobs in the United States – the ability to bring customers, employees from other countries, and other international visitors connected to American companies’ international business activities to and from the United States under a visa process that is predictable, timely and transparent is absolutely critical to our future.
Since July 2002, a growing number of our member companies, large and small, have heard the same message from key customers overseas: it is simply “too hard” to do business with U.S. companies because of the complexities, delays and frustrations inherent in the visa process. The issue extends beyond merely international sales to relationships with overseas business partners, investors and suppliers. The simple truth is that our member companies cannot sustain business with overseas customers under these circumstances. That’s bad for American business, bad for American jobs, and bad for U.S. competitiveness in the global market.
Mr. President, all of our member companies are committed to strengthening America’s national security and we strongly support many of the steps you have taken to strengthen the visa system to achieve that goal. We believe, however, that the visa system is broken and needs urgent repair if it is to be both effective and efficient. Accelerating the conclusion of the bilateral MOU between the Department of State and the Department of Homeland Security would be a positive step in the right direction, as would the restoration of time limits and deadlines to the interagency process. We would appeal to you, Mr. President, to initiate an immediate major review to identify and implement measures to streamline the current system to make it more predictable, timely and transparent. Only in this way will American business, American jobs, and, in turn, the American people continue to benefit from the opportunities the global marketplace offers.
Aerospace Industries Association
AeA (American Electronics Association)
American Business Council of Pakistan
American Chamber of Commerce in China
American Chamber of Commerce in Guangdong, P.R.C.
American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong
American Chamber of Commerce in India
American Chamber of Commerce in Japan
American Chamber of Commerce in Korea
American Chamber of Commerce in Taipei
American Chamber of Commerce in Thailand
American Chamber of Commerce in Sri Lanka
American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines, Inc.
American Malaysian Chamber of Commerce
Association for Manufacturing Technology
Association of American Chambers of Commerce in Latin America
California-China Business Council
California Council for International Trade
Coalition for Employment through Exports
Hong Kong-U.S. Business Council
Israel-America Chamber of Commerce & Industry Ltd
National Association of Manufacturers
National Foreign Trade Council
Semiconductor Equipment and Materials International
Semiconductor Industry Association
Telecommunications Industry Association
United States Information Technology Office
U.S.-ASEAN Business Council
U.S. Chamber of Commerce
U.S.-China Business Council
U.S.-Korea Business Council
U.S.-Russia Business Council
The National Foreign Trade Council is a leading business organization advocating an open, rules-based global trading system. Founded in 1914 by a broad-based group of American companies, the NFTC now serves 350 member companies through its offices in Washington and New York.