Distinguished members of the press.
Thank you for joining us today. As you all know, the ties between the United States and the Dominican Republic are both varied and strong. This is perhaps most evident in the millions of Americans and Dominicans who travel back and forth each year to conduct business, tour historic sites, work, play, and most importantly, reunite with friends and family. Visas allow Dominicans to realize their dreams in U.S. universities, in essential occupations in U.S. businesses, and even on the diamonds of professional baseball.
Our immigrant visa unit here in Santo Domingo is one of the busiest in the world. Every day, we work to reunite families as they immigrate to the United States to start a new life. In short, the facilitation of legitimate travel is one of the most important roles this Embassy plays, and so I am delighted to be able to announce today a new set of enhancements to our visa process.
This year has already brought significant improvements to our visa operations. In June we moved from a consulate that had been our home for more than forty years into this new, state-of-the-art Embassy. This facility has led to a more efficient and comfortable experience for visa applicants. Since June, our consular team has processed record numbers of visas and lowered our appointment wait time down to just a few days.
Beginning November 12th, we will implement additional changes to further improve the visa experience. On that day, we will open a new Visa Application Center at Galeria 360 mall that will handle much of the initial processing, including fingerprints and photos. With this new system, most applicants renewing their visas will not need to visit the Embassy at all, and some may be able to simply drop their documents off at convenient locations around the country. Paying is now easier and less expensive. We will provide all services under a single fee, saving most applicants $26 per visa application. In addition, the Visa Application Center will respond to telephone and email inquiries free of charge, and applicants will be able to track the status of their approved visa and passport online. These changes all mean less time waiting at the Embassy, faster processing, and lower costs.
Before I turn the microphone over to Consul General Sylvia Johnson to tell us about the new process, I want to reiterate how excited we are to inaugurate this new system to facilitate travel to the United States. Whether you’re visiting a relative, touring a national park, or moving to begin a new life in the United States, we take your application seriously and are committed to providing the best possible service to all who walk through our doors. We look forward to welcoming you to our Visa Application Center beginning November 12th.