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Support Builds for Visa Reform Among Mayors, Business LeadersSeptember 6, 2011 By: George Dooley Travel Agent
Consensus in Washington continues to emerge behind reforming the U.S. visa system and expanding the Visa Waiver Program, the U.S. Travel Association reports. Separate job creation plans by leaders of the U.S. Conference of Mayors and U.S. Chamber of Commerce builds on recommendations by President Obama's Jobs and Competitiveness Council and the Discover America Partnership to improve America's visa system for international travelers visiting the United States, the association says. The association also called on President Obama to include visa reforms in his upcoming jobs speech to a joint session of Congress on Thursday, September 8.
This crescendo of activity echoes initial calls from U.S. Travel, whose recommendations for the U.S. visa system would recapture America's historic share of worldwide overseas travel, create an additional 1.3 million U.S. jobs by 2020 and produce $859 billion in cumulative additional economic output.
"It's not often Washington sees consensus, but the call to create jobs by reforming the U.S. visa system is coming from across the nation," said Roger Dow, president and CEO of U.S. Travel. "We greatly appreciate the support for visa reform by the U.S. Conference of Mayors and U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and we look forward to working with them as we urge the President and Congress to make these much-needed changes to create much-needed jobs."
U.S. Conference of Mayors (USCM) President Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Vice President Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter and Second Vice President Mesa (AZ) Mayor Scott Smith recently released the USCM Common Sense Jobs Agenda, which includes the following recommendation:
"Bring in a million more tourists and create over 1.3 million jobs by passing visa reform. A burdensome U.S. visa system drives millions of potential travelers to other countries at an enormous cost to our economy. Between 2000 and 2010, the world travel market grew by more than 60 million annual travelers. Yet, in 2010 the U.S. welcomed essentially the same number of travelers as it did in 2000. Legislation has been introduced in the House and Senate to reform the Visa Waiver Program."
"The Department of Homeland Security is working on a new method of collecting visa overstay data, which is necessary to advance the legislation. Increasing travel to the U.S. could inject over $859 billion into the economy, and create over 1.3 million new American jobs. To increase economic activity and create jobs, the U.S. should prioritize inbound travel through the issuance of a Presidential Directive to recapture the 17 percent of the global long-haul travel market and match Western Europe's current market share in Brazil, China and India by 2015. The U.S. must also reform its cumbersome visa entry process; and expand its Visa Waiver Program to potentially qualifying nations as Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Poland and Taiwan," the agenda said.
In an open letter to Congress and the President, U.S. Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Thomas J. Donohue urged leaders to welcome more tourists and business visitors to the United States: "Remove the hassle factor. Now is the time to make travel to the United States more convenient and welcoming. We must expand the visa waiver program and reform and streamline the visa application process to ensure a consistent, predictable, fair, and timely process without compromising security. We should implement trusted travelers programs that speed through low-risk travelers who submit to a comprehensive screening and pay a fee. Wait times at customs should not exceed 30 minutes."
With this growing support, the U.S. Travel Association called on President Obama to include visa reforms in his upcoming jobs speech to a joint session of Congress on Thursday, September 8. More information about reforming the U.S. visa system can be found at www.smartervisapolicy.org.