President Barack Obama announced Monday that the U.S. and China have agreed to a new, reciprocal 10-year visa policy for tourists and businessmen.
The agreement will allow citizens of each country to travel between the two countries for up to 10 years on a single visa, putting China on level footing with other major trade partners like Brazil and several European countries. Travelers can currently receive one-year visas.
“I’ve heard from American business leaders about how valuable this step will be. And we’ve worked hard to achieve this outcome because it clearly serves the mutual interest of both of our countries,” Obama said Monday at a summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation.
Obama is currently on a weeklong sprint across Asia and the Pacific that will take him from China to Myanmar and Australia, marking an opportunity for Obama to address major foreign affairs and economic challenges as the U.S. continues its pivot to Asia, which Obama promised early in his presidency.
The change is expected to be a boon for the U.S. economy, creating up to 440,000 American jobs by 2021 because increased tourism and business spurred by visits from more than 7 million Chinese that would generate nearly $85 billion in revenue, according to a White House estimate.
Obama also noted that China is the U.S.’s fastest-growing export market and touted the benefits of Chinese investments in the United States that have created job opportunities for Americans.
Less than two percent of the 100 million Chinese travelers last year came to the U.S. and the new policy is expected to incentivize travel.
“They have said that the difficulty of getting visas, which were just one-year visas, was the second biggest obstacle to coming to the United States,” a senior administration official said.
Another senior administration official touted the arrangement’s political benefits, saying the agreement will spur more communication and “gets at some of the core sources of distrust and competition at the heart of the U.S.-China relationship.”
Students will also now be able to obtain five-year visas.
The visa extensions will kick in Wednesday.