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February 27, 2010

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US improves visa services as it urges Chinese to visit

The United States has taken steps to improve its consular services in Shanghai and other cities by deploying more consular officers, increasing support staff and upgrading office facilities to meet the growing demand for visas, a US government official said yesterday.

Michael Kirby, the US Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Consulate Affairs, announced the measures at a news briefing in Shanghai yesterday.

As part of the ongoing efforts to upgrade consular services in China, a new consular office building is being built in Guangzhou, capital of southern China's Guangdong Province, Kirby said. The office is expected to be in operation in a couple of years and would benefit US visa applicants not only in Guangzhou but also from nearby regions.

Shanghai, home to one of the busiest US consular service offices in China, is also to increase the service capacity of its consular office.

Kirby said the office in Shanghai, on Nanjing Road W., would be able to have 70 service desks for applicants, up from the current 47, next month, after an expansion and revamp project.

He said they would also take into consideration China's new infrastructure facilities, such as the high-speed railway lines, in deciding how to arrange the plans as a whole to reinforce consular services across the country.

He also said the refusal rate for Chinese applying for a non-immigrant visa to the US had continued to fall over the past five years.

Across China as a whole, 8 out of 10 Chinese applicants are receiving their non-immigrant visas to America and the rate is even higher in Shanghai, which has the top visa approval rate of all cities offering US consular services, Kirby said.

He said that was the result of China's continuous economic development and general improvement in living standards.

"In the next few years, we will continue to add more officer positions to our embassy and consulates in China as growth in consular workload requires," Kirby said.

"We want to say it loudly that we want Chinese to visit the United States, study and buy things there," he added. "China is important to the United States."

Even during the global financial crisis in 2009, non-immigrant visas in Shanghai increased 2.9 percent over a year earlier, from about 163,000 to 167,000.


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