US embassy officials in Beijing, China announced at a briefing that the US embassy and all the Consulates in China will implement a new online system for visa applications starting in March 2010, abandoning the old paper applications.
Linda L. Donahue, minister-counselor for consular affairs and consul general, said that the new system has already been launched in various US missions worldwide over the past few months, and that it has proven to be a "faster, easier and greener" method.
With the new system, applicants will be able to fill out their personal information online without having to download or print the application forms.
The visa officials at embassies will also save time by not having to manually transcribe applicants' information from paper to computer.
It is a smart system that will filter questions on the application form according to the applicant's visa application purpose. Under the new system, a user who applies for an F1 student visa will answer a different set of questions than a user who applies for a short business visit visa. One will also be able to find language options in the upper right corner and opt to have the form translated into his/her native language.
"With this electronic paperless system, we will save 2 million to 3 million pieces of paper in China alone," said Nancy E. Abella, first secretary in charge of visas, noting that the effort reflects the US desire to be more environmentally friendly, even abroad.
The number of US visas issued in China has been increasing every year. In 2009, a total of 486,000 US visas were issued.
"We expect to see more applications, more visas being issued in China and more Chinese visitors in the US," Abella added.