P 302354Z JUL 04
UNCLAS STATE 166108
VISAS, TO CONSULS
E.O. 12958: N/A
1. Summary. This cable provides guidance on a new initiative to facilitate business travel in support of U.S. commerce abroad. Consular sections should report to CA/VO by August 30 on business-related visa referral and facilitation programs already in place. Posts that do not currently have such a program are asked to develop and report back on a business facilitation plan by August 16. End Summary
2. Many U.S. companies have sought our assistance with respect to helping their ability to compete in the international marketplace. A key aspect of the effort involves continued close contact by visa processing posts with U.S. business interests in order to ensure that visa applications by legitimate foreign business travelers, especially those involved in trade, negotiations and other dealings with U.S. companies, receive full and timely attention.
3. The productive relationships that many posts already enjoy with local American Chambers of Commerce and similar organizations will serve as an important element in this initiative. CA is aware of the wide range of existing business liaison programs that posts have brought to our attention. Some of these may form the basis for new initiatives at posts that do not currently have business liaison programs. These include:
--Embassy Seoul's Business Referral Program, which provides expedited processing for employees of registered companies. Each company designates persons authorized to sign referral letters, which includes a registration stamp and serial number unique to the company. --Bogota's program providing expedited appointments on Fridays for employees of companies that have been vetted by the Embassy. --AIT Taipei's AmCham referral program, which allows for interview without appointment any morning between 8 and 11. --Beijing's Business Visa Program, with over 400 participating companies. Applicants from those companies can apply without appointments any morning between 10 and 12, once the AmCham has notified the Embassy of the applicant's intention to apply. --Buenos Aires scheduling of blocks of appointments for AmCham affiliated companies. The AmCham ensures the visa application is arranged in a standard format, provides a job letter showing the applicant's position, salary, and length of service with the member company, and provides remote data entry service for the Embassy by e-mailing applicant data to the Embassy Call Center. --London's special appointment program for persons in petition-related categories (O, P, H, L, etc.) who need to travel quickly. --Chennai's Business Executive Program, which enrolls about 220 companies with a demonstrated need for a high volume of visas (100+ annually). BEP applicants have separate lines for screening and interviews. --Tokyo's business outreach program, which allows companies who plan to send over 15 employees to the US to schedule special group appointments. The Embassy has conducted a strong outreach campaign to inform companies of the group appointment process.
4. We know that there are many other good ideas out there and that most posts have initiated special programs to reach out to the American business community. We need the details so that we can share our story, both within the USG and with business groups. Posts should also draw on the experience of others in expanding their own business programs.
5. By August 30, visa processing posts should provide to CA/VO/F/P, by either cable or e-mail, information on any existing business visa facilitation or liaison programs. Posts should also provide information on any post-specific Department of Commerce programs that promote business travel. Posts that do not currently have a business visa facilitation program should develop an outline for one by August 30. VO will consolidate information from posts and report back by ALDAC as a way of sharing these best practices widely.
6. In developing a business facilitation plan, posts are encouraged to draw on the examples listed in paragraph 3 and to consult with local AmChams and similar organizations. Posts should also work closely with any post Foreign Commercial Service (FCS) offices, and with State officers responsible for economic/commercial work. The Department realizes that business conditions and interests vary widely from post to post. Therefore, rather than develop a one-size-fits-all plan, we are asking posts to use knowledge of local needs and patterns of travel to come up with a plan that best fits both the needs of the business community and the requirements of the post.