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May 30, 2011

Unnecessary visa headaches

The U.S. needs to make it easier for foreigners to visit as tourists. Right now getting a visa is a real ordeal.

I know that in Brazil, a prospective visitor must call a for-profit phone number and pay around $30 just to get information and make an appointment to get a visa. Brazil is roughly the geographic size of the U.S. and has about two-thirds as many people, but has only three American consulates that issue visas. People who don’t live in cities with a consulate must travel hundreds or thousands of miles, possibly paying airfare, to be interviewed in person at the consulate. And finally, they must pay $140 for the visa itself.

You can see how burdensome and expensive it can be for a family to apply for visas to visit Disney World. To make things worse, if the visas are denied (which happens often) the application fees aren’t refunded.

The result? Hundreds of thousands of Brazilians visit Europe instead, where Brazilian visitors aren’t required to obtain visas. America’s loss is Europe’s gain.

There’s got to be a better way for foreigners to be able to visit the United States.

Rob Montague
Overland Park

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