A growing number of Chinese citizens are taking advantage of recent changes that make it easier to apply for visas to the United States.
The U.S. State Department says its has processed more than one million visa applications so far this year. That is an increase of over 43 percent compared to same period last fiscal year.
Progress was also reported in reducing the amount of time it takes to get a visa interview. Whereas some Chinese have had to wait as long as 60 days to get an interview, that wait has now been reduced to about a week.
William Bent of the State Department's visa office told VOA the improvement is due to a combination of increased staff, expanded facilities, and a new program waiving the in-person interview for some applicants.
"For example, we've instituted a new procedure that will allow people to reapply for visas in an easier way," Bent explained. "Before, people could only apply if their visas had expired less than a year ago. We've increased that to four years, so that has increased the amount of people who can avail themselves of applying for a visa without an interview."
Bent says the U.S. is meeting greater demand for visas worldwide, noting that Brazil and Mexico have also seen more visa applications processed this year.
The changes are part of the Obama administration's efforts to stimulate the economy by increasing travel to the United States. That effort may particularly pay off in China.
At over $6,200 per trip, the U.S. Travel Association says Chinese tourists spend more than tourists from any other country during each trip to the United States.