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< Back to current issue of Immigration Daily < Back to current issue of Immigrant's Weekly

STATE 225608
OCTOBER, 20 2004


REF: (A) STATE 170771  (B) STATE 166108

1.      M/R (SEP) cleared for action by SEP posts as able.

2.       I'd like to thank all posts that responded to our
request for a summary describing efforts to facilitate
business travel.  Ref B provided guidance on a new
initiative to facilitate business travel in support of U.S.
commerce abroad, and instructed posts to report back on
their plans and efforts.  Your responses demonstrate that,
in addition to your strong commitment to enhance border
security, posts worldwide are making significant efforts to
expedite visa applications of legitimate business
travelers.  We will continue to work to ensure that posts
have the resources necessary to achieve Secretary Powell's
goal of "Secure Borders, Open Doors."

3.       Public outreach continues to be the key component of
our efforts to facilitate business travel and educate the
American and international business community about the
visa process.  CA is working constructively with American
businesses to identify areas of the visa process that can
be improved, and recently has introduced some significant
changes to help facilitate travel and make the visa process
more transparent.  For instance, interagency discussions
recently yielded a much improved Visas Mantis SAO process;
processing times have shortened considerably, and the
process is more predictable.  Also, we have greatly
increased the amount of visa data published on our
websites, and are exploring the feasibility of making yet
even more data available to the public.

4.       I'd like to highlight some of the most common and
effective facilitation initiatives in place worldwide, and
urge posts to draw on these initiatives when crafting their
own business facilitation programs.  It is important that
posts initiate and/or expand business facilitation programs
quickly to help counter impressions that the U.S. no longer
welcomes foreign travelers.  Posts interested in obtaining
more details of any of the various initiatives are
encouraged to contact CA/VO/F/P for additional information.

Formal Programs

5.  Many posts have established formal facilitation
programs that enroll major companies and permit their
employees to obtain expedited appointments, and/or
expedited processing on day of interview.  Typically,
companies must meet strictly established criteria in order
to be enrolled, and must adhere to strict standards to stay
in the program.  Site visits are often critical to
determine a company's eligibility.  While membership in
these programs commonly is limited to companies that are
members of host country's AmCham, many posts enroll non-
AmCham companies as well.  Variations of membership include
only allowing participation by employees of companies that
have been members of AmCham for at least 1 year, or
limiting it to individuals applying for visas for business
purposes, as opposed to those applying to visit the U.S.
for tourism.

6.  Common characteristics of formal programs include:

--  Collecting exemplars of each company's letterhead and
the signatures of authorized company representatives for
comparison purposes.  Some posts make available to officers
at their desktop an electronic database of member
companies' profiles, including scanned images of its
letterhead and signatures.

--  Allocating a specific number of visa appointments daily
to businesspeople applying through the program.  One
mechanism to trigger expedited appointments is assigning
companies specific codes, and requiring applicants to
indicate such code when scheduling an appointment.  Posts
allowing walk-ins usually require applicants to present a
letter issued by an authorized representative of their

Group Appointments

7.  Many posts expedite appointments for groups and/or
schedule group appointments, and establish specific time
blocks when business groups may appear for interview.

Time Block Set-Asides

8.  Specific time blocks may be set aside weekly to allow
certain categories of applicants to appear without an
interview.  Categories may include all petition-based
applicants, applicants with B visa referrals, individuals
traveling on USG-sponsored trips, government and military
officials of a certain rank, and more.

Business Facilitation Units

9.  Many posts assign specific officers and/or establish
business facilitation units to serve as a point of contact
for the business community.  This may include establishment
of special e-mail addresses and/or phone numbers to address
questions from the business community and dispense
information on the visa process.


10.  Regular business visa training for consular officers
that addresses a country's economic conditions, provides
info on the structure of the country's business community,
and discusses business-interviewing techniques.  The
training usually is coordinated by the consular and
economic or commercial sections, and may also include
representation from the front office and public diplomacy

11.  While we encourage posts to employ one or more of the
initiatives described above, all posts must at least retain
the flexibility to accommodate urgent requests for
appointments when appropriate.  We also recognize that
certain posts' ability to facilitate business travel is
impacted by larger foreign policy issues such as economic
sanctions, etc., and appreciate these posts' efforts in
reaching out to legitimate business travelers despite these

Other Improvements

12.  Although this message focuses on things posts in the
field are already doing, we are also working on
improvements to the process of a more global nature.  For
example, building on the success of the Electronic Visa
Application Form (EVAF) we continue to explore ways to use
automation to further rationalize and expedite secure visa
processing.  We are also looking at ways to more
effectively provide information and assistance to American
businesses, possibly through a dedicated hotline in CA or
other arrangements.

13.  The critical point in this effort, and in all efforts
you make to improve visa processing, is that we must
continue to make border security our paramount concern
while doing everything we reasonably can to remind the
traveling public that American remains a welcoming
destination for international business, study, medical
treatment, tourism and cultural exchange.  We look forward
to hearing more about your efforts and will be in touch
soon with further initiatives.

14.  Posts that have not yet responded to Ref B are urged
to respond as soon as possible, either via e-mail or by
cable to VO/F/P.

15.  Minimize considered.