The number of Chinese citizens receiving the new extended United States B1 business and B2 tourist visas surged in December and January, just a few months after the US and China announced a change to their international visa reciprocity agreement.
The US issued 351,650 business and tourist visas to Chinese citizens in December and January, a year-over-year jump of 68.2 percent. At this time last year, the US had given 209,100 visas, a US State Department official said in an interview with the South China Morning Post.
During his November visit to Beijing, US President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping signed an agreement to extend tourist and business visas to 10 years from one year and student visas to five years from one year.
The US started issuing the long-term visas on Nov 12.
Nearly 30 percent of all foreign students and exchange visitors in the US originate from China, according to data from the White House. Chinese visitors have accounted for one-fifth of the growth in overseas travel to the US since 2008.
"China is the fastest-growing outbound tourism market in the world," the White House said in a November statement. "A competitive visa policy will help us meet projections that suggest as many as 7.3 million Chinese travelers will come to the US by 2021, contributing nearly $85 billion a year to the US economy and supporting up to 440,000 US jobs."
In 2013, 1.8 million Chinese tourists visited the US, contributing US$21.1 billion to the US economy and supporting more than 109,000 US jobs, the White House said.