US adds consular staff to meet demand

Updated: 2011-11-11 08:16

By Guo Ji (China Daily)

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BEIJING - The US' decision to add consular staff at its embassy in China highlights the growing demand from international students and travelers in the context of the economic downturn, experts and officials said.

The United States plans to send 100 consular staff members, 50 to China and 50 to Brazil, in the coming year in response to an increase in visa applications, Ed Ramotowski, managing director for visa services for US Department of State, said during an online conference on Tuesday.

Over the last year, more than 160,000 student visas have been issued to Chinese citizens to study at US colleges and universities, according to Charles E. Bennett, minister counselor for consular affairs for the US embassy in Beijing.

The US domestic demand for boosting spending by consumers from emerging economies such as China, India and Brazil is one of the major factors behind the increase in embassy staff, experts said.

Bennett said that 18 percent of all foreign students in the US are from China.

The decision by the US brings "significant benefits" for Chinese students who are planning to study there, Yu Guoqiang, an analyst at Beijing-based overseas education consulting agency JJL, told China Daily on Thursday.

A number of state governments in the US are tightening their grip on education spending, which means smaller subsidies for public colleges to pay teachers and fund research.

International students on average pay far more for tuition expenses than US residents.

According to statistics provided by the US Department of Commerce, around 801,000 Chinese visited the US in 2010, and those visitors contributed more than $5 billion to the US economy.

In the 2011 US fiscal year ranging from October 2010 to September 2011, US consular officers in China adjudicated a record-breaking one million visas, achieving a year-on-year increase of 34 percent and doubling the number of visas adjudicated just five years ago.

Around 90 percent of all Chinese nationals who apply for a visa are issued one upon completing the application, according to the US embassy in Beijing.

The US' goal is to expand its capacity to adjudicate more than 2.2 million visas in China and 1.8 million visas in Brazil by 2013, Ramotowski said.

Both governments were urged to extend the length of visas for travelers from each other's country.