The Travel Industry Association (TIA) praised Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff for his rapid expansion and strengthening of the Visa Waiver Program. The signing of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Republic of Korea (South Korea) is seen by TIA as the first step toward enabling Korean citizens to travel to the United States securely without a visa.
The TIA said including South Korea in the Visa Waiver Program is critical to strengthening the national security and economy of the United States, and improving America's image abroad.
"The continued expansion of the Visa Waiver Program to include one of America's closest allies and most important travel partners is an extremely positive step," said Roger Dow, president and CEO of the Travel Industry Association. "Hundreds of thousands of additional Korean visitors will boost the American economy and help reverse the drastic decline in overseas travel to the United States."
Korean citizens traveling to the United States will be required to use the U.S. Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA). Once operational, travelers must submit biographical and other security-related information to U.S. authorities in advance of travel. The MOU commits Korea and the United States to conduct a joint outreach campaign to inform Korean citizens of their obligation to use the ESTA system. There are now 27 countries in the Visa Waiver Program.
The United States currently lacks an effective communications strategy to carry out this aspect of the MOU, TIA says, urging Congressional action on the Travel Promotion Act (S. 1661 / H.R. 3232), currently pending before Congress. The legislation is co-sponsored by 38 U.S. Senators and more than 175 members of the House of Representatives. It would create a public-private campaign to effectively communicate changing U.S. security policies before they are implemented. For information: www.tia.org