The U.S. Travel Association announced its support today for new legislation that would create U.S. jobs by increasing international travel to America. Introduced by Congressman Joe Heck (R-NV), H.R. 3039, the “Welcoming Business Travelers and Tourists to America Act of 2011” will address problems with the U.S. visa system that are currently discouraging international visitors from doing business and traveling here.
“Increasing travel to the United States is the most effective form of economic stimulus, and we can create more than a million jobs by reforming our visa system and welcoming more international travelers to the U.S.,” said Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association. “The travel industry has strongly advocated for visa reform legislation such as the ‘Welcoming Business Travelers and Tourists to America Act of 2011,’ and we commend Congressman Heck for introducing this important legislation. We look forward to working with other members of the House to gain support for its passage.”
A U.S. Travel Association survey of 1,500 travelers from Brazil, China and India demonstrated that an overwhelming majority of travelers found the U.S. a difficult place to visit. Indeed, this graph shows the complexities travelers from those countries experience when applying for a U.S. visa. Among the key highlights of the bill is a 12-day visa processing standard and the implementation of a videoconferencing pilot for visa interviews.
While the State Department currently has a goal of interviewing all visa applicants within 30 days of their application submission, it has failed to meet this performance standard in key markets- a problem that continues to grow as demand rises. Heck’s legislation sets a 12-day processing standard and directs the Secretary of State to use nonimmigrant visa fees to hire foreign service consular officers in China, Brazil and India to meet that standard.
Travelers who do not live in a city where a U.S. consulate is located must incur hundreds or thousands of dollars in expenses to complete a mandatory face-to-face interview. The lack of accessibility to consular offices is an issue in China, Brazil and India. In fact, there are 27 cities in China and eight in India with more than two million inhabitants that do not have a U.S. visa processing center. The bill directs the Secretary of State to implement a visa videoconferencing pilot program for conducting visa interviews.
Since 2000, long-haul arrivals to the U.S. have increased by less than two percent, from nearly 26 million to 26.4 million in 2010, despite a worldwide increase of 60 million long-haul travelers over the same decade. Between 2000 and 2010, the United States’ share of global long-haul travel fell from 17 percent to just 12.4 percent. Recapturing America’s historic share of worldwide overseas travel would create up to an additional 1.3 million U.S. jobs by 2020 compared with 2010 and produce $859 billion in cumulative additional economic output.
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