DOS Beefs Up Consular Services in Brazil, Plans Two New Consulates
The Department of State plans to open two new consulates in Belo Horizante and Porto Alegre, Brazil, which the White House said are important economic and cultural centers for the states of Minas Gerais and Rio Grande do Sul.
In remarks to the U.S.-Brazil Partnership for the 21st Century, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the openings are intended to “make it easier to get those visas, easier to travel, knock down some of the barriers that have been put up, and continue to promote people-to-people contact.” It was not clear from the official statements when the consulates would open, but reports suggested they may not begin operations until 2014.
To address immediate growth in demand, the Department of State is sending dozens of consular officers to Brazilian posts to adjudicate visa applications. Between August and December 2011, the Department sent 82 temporary duty officers to Brazil, who issued more than 135,000 visas to Brazilian travelers. The Department of State is doubling the number of diplomats performing consular work in Brazil over the next year.
The Department is also implementing a pilot program in which consular officers may waive in-person interviews for certain qualified individuals, such as those renewing their visas within 48 months of the expiration of their previous visas, and Brazilians below the age of 16 and those age 66 and older. Because security is paramount, consular officers may interview any visa applicant in any category. Nonetheless, the Department said that this program “will benefit thousands of Brazilians who want to visit the United States.”
According to a White House statement released on April 9, 2012, Brazil now ranks as the fourth largest source of overseas visitors, with 1.5 million visits to the United States in 2011, representing a 26 percent increase from 2010. Visa issuances to Brazilians tripled between 2006 and 2011, and are on pace for significant gains in 2012, the White House noted. As of February, visa processing was up 57 percent in 2012 from the same time frame in 2011. The Department of Commerce forecasted that 2.8 million Brazilians will travel to the United States in 2016, an increase of 87 percent from 2011. Visa interview wait times have dropped dramatically in Brazil, and now average just two weeks or less in Brasilia, Recife, and Rio de Janeiro, and 35 days or fewer in Sao Paulo.