KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysians with approved US visas after 2007 will be exempted from attending personal interviews when they "renew" their visas.
Those who have gone through the visa screening process, including biometric checks done for the first time and are considered safe travellers, would be eligible for the interview waiver, US assistant secretary for Consular Affairs Ambassador Janice L. Jacobs said.
"For Malaysia, this is good news. We want to help facilitate frequent travellers," she said at a press conference yesterday.
Eligible Malaysians travelling to the United States for business and tourism are issued a 10-year visa.
Jacobs, however, said anyone who was found to be problematic during their travels to and from the United States would be called for an interview during their subsequent visa application.
She said the visa procedure had been made easier and more efficient over the years to encourage more visitors to the United States.
"The visa process in Malaysia is fast and easy. Next business day appointments are available and 99 per cent of approved applicants can collect their visa the next day," said Jacobs.
She said the embassy here issued about 42,000 visas to Malaysians last year.
Jacobs said 95 per cent of Malaysian visa applications were approved at the time of the interview at the US embassy and almost all could collect their visa the following workday.
She said the US Department of Commerce had estimated that the number of visitors to the United States could increase 4 per cent annually for the next six years and could surpass 84 million visitors by 2018.
"The US National Travel and Tourism Strategy aims to increase that figure to 100 million international visitors by 2021. Increasing travel by Malaysians to the United States is part of this effort," she added.
On the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), Jacobs said Malaysia had yet to meet various requirements to be considered for the programme.
The VWP allows citizens of participating countries to travel to the United States without a visa for stays of 90 days or less. Thus far, 37 countries are participants of the programme.
Jacobs said Malaysia had only met one requirement so far, which is having a machine-readable passport.
"There are a number of steps that needs to be taken by Malaysia. It is a very technical process but we have made our requirements known to the authorities here," she said.