Senate Bill Seeks Improved Visa Processing For Visitors

The deployment of videoconference capability for overseas travelers – now pending in a Senate bill - will go a long way in helping to achieve the Obama administrations goal of doubling exports under the National Export Initiative, according to Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association. Approval would spark more foreign visitors to the U.S. and create jobs.

"Conducting tourist visa interviews via secure, remote videoconferencing technology is a practical solution to offset insufficient access to U.S. consulates. With the right mechanisms in place, our country stands to welcome millions of additional visitors each year, greatly benefiting both our economy and American jobs."

Dow praised Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA) for her efforts and hailed the inclusion of a provision permitting the testing of secure visa videoconferencing for aspiring foreign visitors in the state and foreign operations appropriations bill. Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Judd Gregg (R-NH) were also critical to passage of the provision, U.S. Travel said.

“The average overseas visitor to the United States spends more than $4,000 when they visit. With both videoconferencing technology and strategically assigned consular officers, the U.S. could more efficiently process visitors and advance the Administration's goal to double exports within five years,” U.S. Travel said.

By doubling arrivals from just three key emerging travel markets - Brazil, China and India - the United States stands to gain $24 billion in direct export revenues that would support more than 200,000 jobs related to international travel and tourism, according to U.S. Travel projections.

In geographically large countries such as India, China and Brazil, a lack of access to U.S. consular offices has meant that entire tour groups or families must travel hundreds of miles to the nearest U.S. consulate just to apply for a visa, the association says.

Examples, include:

* Although China has 450 cities with more than one-half million people, only five cities have a U.S. consulate that offers tour group visa interviews.

    * In Brazil and India - with a total land area equal to or greater than the United States - there are only four consulates in the entire country. Currently a businessperson in Manaus, Brazil, a city with non-stop daily air service to the U.S., has to travel more than 1,300 miles for the required personal visa interview at the nearest consulate.

Dow noted that America's travel community will promote final enactment of the legislation as the bill moves to the Senate floor for consideration and encourages the House Appropriations Committee to include similar language in their companion appropriations bill.



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