New 10-year visa for Chinese visitors in the U.S.A

A new visa extension for US and Chinese citizens is expected to boost US tourism and is being looked upon as a positive step in relations between the two super powers.
US President Barack Obama announced on Monday in Beijing that the US and China had agreed to a reciprocal 10-year visa policy for tourists and businessmen. Speaking during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit, Obama said the move would “benefit everyone”.
It will allow citizens of each country to travel between the two countries for up to 10 years on a single visa, putting China on level footing with other major trade partners like Brazil and several European countries. Travelers and students can currently receive one-year visas. Students will also now be able to obtain five-year visas. The visa extensions will start on Wednesday.
The change is expected to be a boon for the US economy, creating up to 440,000 American jobs by 2021 because increased tourism and business spurred by visits from more than 7 million Chinese would generate nearly $85 billion in revenue, according to a White House estimate.
Last year 1.8 million Chinese travelers visited the US, contributing $21.1 billion to the economy and supporting more than 109,000 American jobs, according to a White House estimate.
The tourism industry accounted for 2.8 percent of US GDP and nearly 70 million international tourists spent $166 billion in the US in 2012, according to the US Commerce Department’s International Trade Administration.
“Where this will make the most impact is on the repeat traveler to the US from China,” said Evan Saunders, CEO of Attract China, a Boston and Beijing consultant that helps US businesses attract Chinese tourists.
He said many Chinese visitors who want to make multiple visits to the US won’t have to go through what can be a time-consuming process of renewing a visa every year.
“By 2018, Chinese tourists are expected to be the top overseas traveler to the US,” Saunders told China Daily.
What do US businesses have to do to take advantage of the projected influx of tourists?
“US businesses need to utilize the Internet and social media to engage the Chinese consumer,” said Saunders. “And they need to do it about six months before the Chinese tourist departs for the US.”
In 2012, Obama issued an executive order to ease the issuance of visas to visiting Chinese and to speed up the visa request process at China’s US consulates.
“This convinced hundreds of thousands of Chinese visitors to choose the US as a leisure and shopping destination and knowing that an average Chinese visitor to the US spends an average of $7,000 per trip, the impact on the US economy could be measured in additional billions,” said Pierre Gervois, CEO and publisher of China Elite Focus Magazines.
The visa extension will bring explosive growth to the tourism industry, said Ralph Zhu, marketing director of US International Trip, a California-based travel agency which expects 300,000 customers from China this year.
“The biggest growth may come from Chinese students studying in the US,” he said, “A student may spend three or four years in the United States. Under the new visa policy, their family and friends won’t worry about renewing their visas and therefore are more likely to visit them every year.”
The Chinese account for about 28 percent of the foreign students studying in the US according to the Institute of International Education’s Open Door report.
The basic visa processing fee will remain the same, according to the US State Department.
Obama arrived in Beijing earlier for a week-long trip to the region and the APEC summit. Later he is scheduled for a state visit with Xi.
“The fact that President Obama announced these changes with what he termed the strong approval of Chinese President Xi Jinping at a major multi-lateral event like the APEC summit is a positive step,” Kenneth Lieberthal, senior fellow in foreign policy at the Washington-based Brookings Institution,told China Daily.
However, Lieberthal said the agreement’s effect on the relationship between the two super powers will probably be muted.
“It’s a huge and complicated relationship. Still it does suggest that both sides want to accomplish some positive things. The new visa requirements will provide a boost to travel and it will increase interaction between the two countries. That is always a good thing,” he said.
Lu Huiquan in New York contributed to this report.
Article by PAUL WELITZKIN, China Daily USA, New York
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CHINA – Shanghai to be top air cargo hub

By He Wei in Shanghai (July 12, 2012 16:23)

Shanghai is on course to become the world’s top air cargo hub by 2015, according to the head of the city’s airport authority.

Speaking at the opening of a new $175 million North Asia hub by Germany’s Deutsche Post DHL, Li Derun, president of Shanghai Airport Authority, said that investments by such global players at Shanghai Pudong International Airport are now driving air traffic into the city.

He said rival US industry giants United Parcel Service Inc and FedEx Corp are also planning to base their regional express hubs in the airport area, expanding their international transfer business.

Pudong International Airport handled around 3.1 million metric tons of cargo in 2011, ranking it third globally behind Hong Kong International Airport and Memphis International Airport in the United States.

“We only lag behind our rivals by 500,000 to 600,000 tons,” Li said.

“International transfer business accounts for just 5 percent of our portfolio. To take the top spot, we need to lift this to 16 percent over the next three years.”

The new DHL facility in Shanghai – part of an overall expansion plan by the company in China over the next five years – will be its biggest express hub in Asia, and marks its largest single investment in China, said its executive officer Frank Appel.

“The hub is a logistics milestone in the company’s network. With Asia’s leading economies fast integrating and free trade agreements reducing barriers to international commerce, logistics companies need capabilities to offer simplicity, speed and service,” he added.

Covering an area equivalent to 13 soccer fields, the center can process up to 20,000 documents and 20,000 parcels per hour.

Last year, DHL’s sales in China hit 4.2 billion euros ($5.1 billion), representing half of its Asia-Pacific revenue and 10 percent of its global income.

Appel said the company now expects China to account for a third of its overall revenue by 2017, and DHL will spend a further $132 million adding eight dedicated aircraft on high demand routes between Shanghai and North Asia, Europe and the US by 2014.

Li added that the new international express services being introduced will greatly enhance Pudong International Airport’s cargo business, which saw shipments drop by 7 percent in the first half of this year compared to the end of 2011.

To better serve the international couriers now operating there, Li said the airport authorities plan to speed up customs clearance systems and optimize flight timetables for faster connections.

With the government’s call to turn the city into an intercontinental cargo center, UPS introduced an international hub three years ago at Pudong International Airport, making it the key gateway linking China to its global network.

According to Li, FedEx is planning an inter-continental express hub at the airport, even bigger than that opened by DHL.

While FedEx declined to comment on details, its express division announced on Thursday it was launching Boeing 777 freighter routes from Shanghai and Guangzhou.

The two US companies are both applying for domestic licenses to operate inter-city businesses on the mainland.

But the requests are still pending, partly thwarted by concerns that their access to the local market is considered a threat to national security.

DHL’s Appel, however, said it wasn’t planning to launch domestic services at the moment after pulling out in 2011.

“We are now concentrating on the international delivery market. The competition in the domestic market is too intense,” he said.


US visa applications processed in China up 43%

WASHINGTON – The US has processed more than 1 million visa applications in China to date in fiscal year 2012, almost up 43 percent over the same period last fiscal year, the US State Department said Thursday

This was the result of the measures taken by the State Department in order to attract more Chinese visitors to the US, including adding staff, improving workflow and reducing the wait time for a visa interview appointment to approximately one week.

“We are implementing permanent solutions to keep us ahead of the growing visa demand for years to come,” the Department said in a statement.

During a June trip to China, the State Department’s top consular official, Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs Janice Jacobs, cut the ribbon on a reopened annex to the US Embassy in Beijing, greatly increasing visa interview capacity.

In addition to its embassy in Beijing, the US has four consulates in China, which are located in Chengdu, Guangzhou, Shanghai and Shenyang.

China is not the only place where the US has achieved great success in meeting dramatic increases in visa demand. In Brazil, US consular officers have processed almost 44 percent more visa applications to date in fiscal year 2012, which started from October 1, 2011 to September 30, 2012, than the same period last year. In Mexico, the number of processed visa applications increased by 36 percent.

China and Mexico are the only two countries, where the US processes more than 1 million visa applications each year, although Brazil is on track to become the third, the Department said.

“The accomplishments announced today reflect the Obama Administration’s commitment towards increasing US jobs by encouraging more people to visit our country,” it added.