KUALA LUMPUR: The United States Embassy now allows visa renewal by mail for Malaysians.
Previously, those needing a US visa had to fill up an online application and make an appointment for interviews at the embassy here.
Now, holders of visas that are still valid or have expired within the last 12 months can renew theirs by mail, without having to attend an interview.
Regular travellers to the United States will also be considered under the Visa Renewal by Mail scheme.
Malaysia is one of the early adopters of the US programme introduced here last month to cut costs and time.
US Ambassador Kamala Shirin Lakhdhir said her Government wanted to make the visa process more “customer-oriented” for Malaysians.
“There is a perception here that it is impossible or very hard to get a US visa. People are worried about the processes and procedures, and coming for the interview.
“The truth is, if you are a Malaysian who applied for a tourist or short-term business visa, you are 95% sure of getting it.
For students, it’s 99%!
“So now the process is all online. The more convenient and quick it is for Malaysians, the easier it is for us too,” she said in an interview.
The bulk of tourist visas for Malaysians are for the maximum 10 years.
Under the new scheme, applicants must still fill in the online application and answer a series of questions to verify their eligibility for new visas by mail.
A confirmation page will be sent out if one qualifies. Once the visas are ready, applicants will be contacted by SMS or e-mail to pick up their passports at the location selected.
US Consul-General Matt Keene explained the programme in a recent Facebook Live broadcast which attracted 20,000 views.
Last year, about 40,000 US visas were issued to Malaysians.
The number of Malaysian students issued visas for the 2016/17 academic year was 8,274.
On the US visa waiver being sought by Malaysia, Lakhdhir said the Trump administration was not moving towards including new countries under the programme.
“I cannot predict if there will be a change in that policy.
“Malaysia and the US have worked very hard on travel security measures, in terms of making sure travellers are legitimate and working on lost or stolen passport information,” she added.
The envoy urged Malaysia not to give up its aim of being included in the programme.
“If there is an opportunity in the future, my hope is that Malaysia will be at the front of the line,” she added.
Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi had expressed confidence that the Government would be able to fulfil all conditions in order to participate in the US Visa Waiver programme by September.