The U.S. Mission in China will adopt a new system for paying nonimmigrant visa application fees, scheduling appointments, and returning passports, effective March 16, 2013. This is part of the State Department’s Global Support Strategy (GSS). U.S. Embassy in Beijing, New Process for U.S. Visa Applications (last visited Mar. 1, 2013), http://beijing.usembassy-china.org.cn/niv_info.html.
GSS will likely improve on the current appointment system in China, which involves first paying the visa application fee and buying a phone card at CITIC Bank then phoning the call center to schedule an appointment.
Payment of the Visa Application Fee
Under the new regime, the visa application fee can be paid online with a debit card issued in China, at any CITIC Bank ATM with a Union Pay ATM card, or in cash at CITIC Bank. There will no longer be separate fees for a phone card or for postage to return the visaed passport.
Note that nonimmigrant visa application fee receipts previously issued by CITIC Bank will not be valid for appointments after March 14, 2013. Id. This may come as a disappointment to some applicants, who were previously told that the fee receipts—although not refundable—would be valid for appointments within one year. Vision-X Enterprise Management, Ltd., USA Visa Information Payment Service (last visited Mar. 1, 2013), https://www.usavisainformation.com.cn/eng/information.aspx.
Scheduling an Appointment
Applicants will be able to schedule an appointment online at http://www.ustraveldocs.com or by phoning a call center. The call center will also answer questions or reschedule an appointment at no extra charge.
The US Mission in China will continue to waive the interview and provide drop-off service for certain applicants renewing their visas. U.S. Embassy in Beijing, Visa Renewal/CITIC Bank Drop-off Service (last visited Mar. 1, 2013), http://beijing.usembassy-china.org.cn/niv_renewal.html. And interview waivers will continue to be available for applicants under age 14 or over age 80. U.S. Embassy in Beijing, Visa Renewal/CITIC Bank Drop-off Service (last visited Mar. 1, 2013), http://beijing.usembassy-china.org.cn/niv_renewal.html).
Return of Visaed Passports
Under the new regime, the consular post will notify the applicant by email when his or her visaed passport is ready for pick at one of 800 CITIC Bank branches in China. Some applicants may consider this to be less convenient than the prior system, in which passports could either be mailed by EMS to the applicant’s selected address or be picked up at the China Post office near the consular post.
The State Department’s Global Support Strategy is intended to increase efficiency as well as free consular staff for adjudications by contracting with one global vendor, Stanley Associates Inc., for such services. GSS is already in place in many countries, such as Canada, Mexico, and India. See U.S. Dep’ts of State and Homeland Security, Executive Order 13597: Improvements to Visa Processing and Foreign Visitor Processing 18—Day Progress Report 19 (Aug. 2012), AILA InfoNet Doc. No. 12091946; Schedule of Fees for Consular Services, Dep’t of State and Overseas Embassies and Consulates, 74 Fed. Reg. 66076, 66077 (Dec. 14, 2009), AILA InfoNet Doc. No. 09121165.
Note that visa applicants in China will continue to be fingerprinted during their visa appointments at the consular post. U.S. Dep’t of State, Solicitation Notice: Bureau of Consular Affairs—Global Support Strategy for Visa Services—China, GSS-TO-16-12 (Oct. 1, 2012), https://www.fbo.gov/index?s=opportunity&mode=form&id=3f9e312bb8ca817d69ce3d1926c443f7. This is unlike the process in other certain countries such as India and Mexico, where GSS involves fingerprinting at offsite private facilities.
Stay tuned for further details as the new system is rolled out.