Dow’s Congressional Testimony Urges Expansion of Visa Waiver Program
Washington, DCThe U.S. Travel Association today announced support for the Jobs Originated through Launching Travel (JOLT) Act during testimony before the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration, Refugees and Border Security. In his remarks, Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association, urged codification of a two-week visa processing standard and expansion of the Visa Waiver Program (VWP).
“The foreign press has had a field day, literally at our expense, by retelling horror stories of foreign visitors unable to come to the United States,” said Dow. “The global travel market is booming, for both leisure and business travel. As demand rises, especially in key emerging markets, prospective travelers have choices about their global destinations. Interest in visiting the United States remains strong, but potential visitors are discouraged by real and perceived hassles in our visa process that could be eliminated without compromising security.”
The President’s recent Executive Order, which committed the State Department to processing 80 percent of all non-immigrant visas within 15 days, devoted some resources to address visa processing. The JOLT Act codifies a two-week standard. Upon enactment, the legislation would require scheduling of the visa interview, the key element of the process, within 15 days; and a year later, the bill would require an interview to be held within 10 days. This approach sends a clear message that the U.S. remains serious about security safeguards but also seeks to encourage and welcome legitimate visitors.
Additionally, VWP countries are the largest source of inbound travel to the United States. In 2011, more than 18 million visitors to the U.S. – nearly two-thirds of all overseas visitors – arrived through the VWP. While here, they spent $69 billion, supported 525,000 American jobs, and generated $13 billion in payroll and $11 billion in government tax revenues.
U.S. Travel is pleased that the Administration has nominated Taiwan for VWP status and believes the Departments of State and Homeland Security should immediately begin bilateral “roadmap” negotiations with countries willing to meet the program’s strict security criteria.
Recently, the U.S. Travel Association studied the economic impact of including 11 potential candidates for VWP status. Expanding the VWP would quickly drive up arrivals from these 11 nations from three million to four million visitors. This would create enough jobs to operate eight of the largest auto assembly plants in the United States.
“Every potential new VWP visitor from Brazil, Poland and other key markets constitutes a walking economic stimulus package,” said Dow.
Dow’s oral testimony is available here