The U.S.-China relationship has undergone a remarkable deepening in recent years. More and more Chinese and Americans are doing business together, attending universities and enrolling in study abroad programs in each country, and enhancing mutual understanding through civil society exchanges and tourism. Chinese are now traveling to the United States in record numbers, a prospect that we support and welcome.
In the one year period from October 2010 to September 2011, United States consular officers adjudicated a record-breaking one million visas in China – an increase of more than 34 percent compared to last year, and double the number of visas adjudicated just five years ago. During the last year, over 160,000 student visas were issued to Chinese citizens to study at U.S. colleges and universities, and today 18 percent of all foreign students in the United States are from China. Nearly 90 percent of all Chinese nationals who apply for a visa are issued upon application.
Ambassador Gary Locke has committed to make the visa application process in China more responsive to this increased demand. To make the process more efficient and customer-friendly and to keep the time needed to make an appointment down to a minimum, we plan on adding more than fifty new consular officer positions in China this coming year. We hope to expand and modernize consular facilities, and continue our reciprocal discussions with the Chinese government to increase the length of visa validity.
The relationship between our two countries depends greatly on the strong people-to-people ties that exist between Chinese and Americans. Whether applying for a visa to visit the United States as a tourist, for business, to study, or to visit family or friends, the U.S. Embassy in Beijing and our consulates in China are committed to improving the visa application process to meet the growing demand for United States visa services throughout China.