The Travel Industry Association of America (TIA) praised the leadership of House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Sensenbrenner in securing passage today of H.R. 4417 by the U.S. House of Representatives. This bill would give Visa Waiver Program countries one additional year to begin producing new passports containing cutting-edge biometric technology.Current law requires the 27 Visa Waiver Program countries to begin issuing new biometric passports by October 26, 2004. Very few (if any) of these countries can meet the deadline, thus necessitating action on the part of the U.S. Congress to extend it.
“With passage of this bill, Congress is now halfway there in extending the biometric passport deadline and reassuring millions of overseas visitors that the U.S. still welcomes them,” said TIA President and CEO William S. Norman. “We could not have gotten this far, this fast without the dedication and leadership of Chairman Sensenbrenner, and our industry heartily thanks him.”
TIA has been leading an industry-wide effort to extend the deadline and is encouraged by the support of many in Congress for this issue. The Visa Waiver Program accounts for two-thirds of all overseas travel to the U.S.—nearly 14 million visitors traveling for business, education and pleasure. With so many of our key trading partner countries likely to miss the present deadline, this requirement poses a grave risk to the U.S. economy and the travel industry in particular and could significantly reduce inbound travel to the U.S. from many Visa Waiver Program countries.
“The livelihood of thousands of American workers is at stake, and it is essential that the Senate and White House come together with the House of Representatives over the next few weeks to finish this important work,” said Norman. “2004 is forecasted to be a turnaround year where the industry can finally see positive growth in inbound international travel to the U.S. However, these predictions will only come true if Visa Waiver Program countries are given additional time to meet these necessary security objectives.”