Aiming at expanding people-to-people cooperation between the two nations, US Ambassador to Indonesia Robert O. Blake Jr., said US visa applications would be more accessible. Blake, who presented his credentials to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on Thursday, brushed aside the widespread perception that — for Indonesians — US visas were very difficult to secure. “Sometimes I hear Indonesians say it is hard to get a visa. I want to say very categorically that that is not true,” Blake said during a discussion with the media at his residence on Monday. Blake cited the fact that the US Embassy in Jakarta had approved most of the visa applications it processed. “Specifically, 98 percent of Indonesians that applied for student visas […] received those visas. Likewise, 92 percent of those who applied to travel to the US were granted their visas,” he added. US visa denial is a widespread perception, particularly after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, with many applicants complaining they were given no clear reason for the rejection. The situation has also been reflected in the number of Indonesian students applying to study at US universities under US government grants: The number dropped after the attacks in 2001, due to the US’ more stringent visa application process. Blake emphasized that the vast majority of applicants received visas much quicker now. “It takes on average less than two days to get an appointment and get the visa approved. The applicant then receives the visa within three days. It is very short,” he said. “I want to extend my warm welcome to all Indonesians who wish to travel to the US, not only students but also tourists and businesspeople.” Easing the visa application process is part of the US’ efforts to increase people-to-people contact after President Barack Obama and Yudhoyono launched the Indonesia-US Comprehensive Partnership in November 2010. “Four years after Obama-Yudho-yono signed the comprehensive partnership, the US-RI has an unprecedented level of cooperation,” Blake noted. Blake who previously served as ambassador to Sri Lanka and the Maldives from 2006 to 2009 also laid out economic cooperation and climate change collaboration to be his priorities over the course of his term in Indonesia. Both countries need to increase economic opportunities and to expand two way trade and investment. A recent study commissioned by the US Chamber of Commerce and the US Agency for International Development reported that between 2004-2012 US foreign direct investment in Indonesia reached US$65 billion “I certainly want to continue to build upon that positive record,” he said. Regarding climate change, the US would support Indonesia’s efforts to reduce green gas emissions, he said. In 2009, Yudhoyono pledged, with foreign help, to reduce green gas emissions by 41 percent by 2020. “The US is pleased to partner with RI to provide help to achieve that goal,” said the ambassador.