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U.S. Travel Association Supports Senate Visa Reform BillOctober 5, 2011 By: George Dooley Travel Agent
Legislation that would create American jobs by welcoming more international travelers to the U.S. received support from the U.S. Travel Association. The "International Tourism Facilitation Act," introduced by Tourism Caucus Co-Chairs Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Roy Blunt (R-MO), calls on the State Department to respond to demands placed on consular services by increased travel demand to the U.S. and provides incentives for the State Department to use its resources more effectively.
"International business and leisure travelers stimulate our economy, and the 'International Tourism Facilitation Act' is the legislation our country needs to create U.S. jobs and to improve our visa process," said Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association. "Senators Klobuchar and Blunt have offered a cost-effective proposal that will help to deliver jobs for communities across America."
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 over the past decade – a problem that will grow as demand rises, U.S. Travel says. The Act gives the State Department greater flexibility to reinvest fees charged for visas in order to spend new funds on personnel needed to process visas more efficiently.
Additionally, the Act allows the State Department to waive visa interviews for three additional years (four years total) for individuals who previously held a U.S. visa. This provision would allow the State Department to focus its resources on people never previously vetted, U.S. Travel says. Finally, the bill instructs the State Department to provide Congress short and long-term plans to meet the forecasted demand for visas through 2020 in Brazil, China, and India in order to ensure it is fully prepared to meet continued growth in visa demand.
By failing to keep pace with growth in global long-haul international travel between 2000 and 2010, the United States lost the opportunity to welcome 78 million more visitors and generate $606 billion in direct and downstream spending – enough to support more than 467,000 additional U.S. jobs annually over these years, U.S. Travel says.
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.