In a move that is a no-brainer, last month the US government announced that it will try to boost Brazilian tourism to the US. To do so, the US will make it easier for Brazilians to obtain tourist visas in the US consulates in Brazil, speed up the visa process, and reduce the length of the renewal process for those whose visas have expired.
During the Bush years, acquiring a tourist visa was an extremely long, stressful, and expensive ordeal. The process for Brazilians to obtain tourist visas was absurd, with what seemed to be eternal waiting period just to get an interview at the consulates. In Rio de Janeiro, the line for people trying to gain a visa stretched around the US consulate every day. Additionally, there was no guarantee that you would get a tourist visa, meaning you were out the hundreds of dollars for an application and you had to begin the months-long process again if you hoped to simply land another interview (which also was not guaranteed). Brazil does have a policy of reciprocity, so US citizens had to pay the same price to get a tourist visa to Brazil as Brazilians did to get to the US (which is only fair), but there was nothing reciprocal about the actual granting of visas, as US citizens were able to get tourist visas much more quickly and easily than their Brazilian counterparts.
Obama’s new policy, however, while not perfect, is a major step in the right direction. An increase in ease of acquiring tourist visas is going to be a non-issue in terms of illegal immigration, which the restrictions were ostensibly designed to prevent but which in reality did nothing but penalize Brazilians with the means to travel abroad. That the process will now be easier and less of a hassle (even if not yet perfect) for Brazilians is excellent. Additionally, more Brazilians traveling to the US will mean more opportunities for the US economy to turn around; indeed, under Obama’s plan, the increase could create more than 1 million jobs in 10 years. All in all, reforms to the visa-granting process were extremely overdue, and it’s good to finally see a policy that seems to help both Brazil and the US in different ways.