SHANGHAI: The visa application process on the Chinese mainland for the United States continues to grow rapidly, while the number of applications from other countries is declining, a US consular said on Friday.
Michael D. Kirby, the principal deputy assistant secretary for the consular affairs, announced that the overall number of all visa applications in the mainland for 2009 is 596,231, a year-on-year increase of 50,000, with student visa applications accounting for 98,500 of them.
"The number of Chinese applicants has kept increasing, with the number in Shanghai in January seeing an increase of 80 percent over last December to reach a peak of 32,400," Kirby said.
"We're expecting an annual growth rate of 16 to 20 percent."
As always, students' visa applications occupied a large portion of all applications, while the refusal rate for them was declining, which was in contrast to the public perception of the situation. The refusal rate of students' visa applications declined from 32 percent to 15 percent from 2007 to 2008, while the number of applicants doubled.
Lei Guoxin, manager of the US study abroad department at Shanghai A&A International Education Agency, told China Daily: "We have not had students rejected on the basis of their visas since we launched our US study abroad department last year. The number of applicants rose dramatically after President Obama's visit to Shanghai last year, while the age of applicants has fallen."
Student applicants also discovered the visa process is not as difficult as they expected.
"I was told by my friends that it was very difficult to get a visa to the US for Chinese applicants, but I just applied as a student. It only took two minutes for the interview," said Wu Xiangsheng, a first year student at the University of Northern California.
From March 1, all applicants will be required to apply for a US visa via the Online DS-160 Non-immigrant Visa Electronic Application.
The DS-160 application is an online form with different questions for different types of visas. Applicants do not have to spend time filling out paper forms or sitting in waiting rooms for interviews.
"The DS-160 uses high technology to meet the increased visa application demands in China," Kirby added.
"I want to dispel the myth that it is very difficult to get a US visa in China. Chinese are welcomed to study, travel and shop in the US if they confirm that they will not immigrate to the country. We could also regard this as a way to stimulate our economy as a whole," Kirby stressed.