The Travel Industry Association of America
(TIA) praised the leadership of Senate Immigration Subcommittee Chairman Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) and Ranking Member Edward Kennedy (D-MA) in securing passage of H.R. 4417. This bill would give Visa Waiver Program countries one additional year to begin producing new passports containing biometric technology.Current law requires the 27 Visa Waiver Program countries to begin issuing new biometric passports by October 26, 2004. Virtually none of these countries can meet the deadline, thus necessitating action on the part of the U.S. Congress to extend it. The House passed legislation for a one-year extension on June 14.
“Congress’ prudent and quick action has averted major disruptions of late summer and early fall travel to the U.S.,” said TIA President and CEO William S. Norman. “We appreciate the continued support of the Administration and look forward to President Bush signing this bill into law so that millions of Visa Waiver Program travelers can continue to see America.”
TIA has been leading a travel industry-wide effort to extend the deadline. The Visa Waiver Program accounts for two-thirds of all overseas leisure, business, student and medical travel to the U.S.; for a total of nearly 14 million visitors. With so many countries likely to miss the present deadline, this requirement poses a risk to the U.S. travel industry that serves these travelers and could significantly reduce inbound travel to the U.S. from many Visa Waiver Program countries.
“This represents a big win for the many corporations and industry groups that lobbied in support of an extension,” said Norman. “But passage of H.R. 4417 represents an even bigger win for the nearly one million American workers who rely on international visitation for their livelihood.”
The following 27 countries participate in the Visa Waiver Program: Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brunei, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and United Kingdom.