The Western Governors Council, an organization representing the Governors of 19 states and three U.S.-Flag Pacific islands, adopted a resolution yesterday to improve visa approval procedures for international travelers visiting the United States. The resolution supports visa reform advocated by the U.S. Travel Association, including:
Setting a visa processing standard of two weeks and using visa fees to hire enough State Department personnel to focus only on processing travel visas while maintaining the same strict security standards;
Introducing videoconferencing to conduct visa interviews in key markets;
Expanding the Visa Waiver Program to new countries; and
Granting Chinese travelers visas that are valid for at least five years versus the current one-year visa.
“During a time of high unemployment and slow economic growth, making some simple changes in our current visa system would create millions of U.S. jobs and billions in economic output,” said Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association. “We greatly appreciate the attention to visa reform and the support of the 22 U.S. governors the Western Governors Council represents.”
The U.S. share of overseas arrivals has fallen from 17 to 12.4 percent since 2000, even as worldwide travel grew by 40 percent over the same time frame. Losing just one percentage point of the total world international travel market potentially costs the U.S. 161,000 jobs.
Last May, a U.S. Travel Association report identified difficulties international travelers experience with the U.S. visa system, which causes many to choose other countries for business or leisure travel. The report provides a four-step plan to help the U.S. regain market share in the overseas travel market, create 1.3 million American jobs and produce $859 billion in additional cumulative economic output by 2020.