The U.S. Travel Association commended newly-introduced House and Senate versions of the Jobs Originated through Launching Travel (JOLT) Act of 2012. The legislation will create jobs and improve national security through provisions that make long-term reforms to the visa system, improve the entry process and expand the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), the association says.
"The JOLT Act reforms significant difficulties in our current visa and entry process while at the same time increasing safeguards and making it more attractive for millions of people around the world to visit the United States," said Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association. "The U.S. travel industry appreciates the bipartisan work of Congress in coming up with critical legislation that will remove barriers, improve security and provide a great boost to our economy."
The new JOLT Act (H.R. 5741, S.3199) includes the following provisions:
Amends the VWP to allow additional countries to be considered for admission once they meet stringent security and law enforcement co-operation requirements;
Permits Canadian visitors to stay in the United States for an additional 60 days per year;
Develops a pilot program for premium visa processing;
Increases transparency by making historical data on visa processing wait times available to the public;
Allows Customs and Border Protection to add foreign nationals to Global Entry after it has signed a bilateral agreement with their government; and
Sets a goal to conduct 80 percent of all nonimmigrant visa interviews within 15 business days of requesting an appointment.
Consensus on the Hill continues to build around these issues, U.S.Travel says. The VWP provision mirrors language included in the Senate's fiscal year 2013 homeland security funding bill currently before the Senate Appropriations Committee.
Senators Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Mike Lee (R-NV), and Representatives Joe Heck (NV-3) and Mike Quigley (IL-5), introduced the legislation, which is supported by the Departments of State and Homeland Security.
"The members of Congress co-sponsoring this bill understand the powerful economic role that travel plays in their states and districts," said Dow. "We appreciate their support of this important issue, and we look forward to working with them on full passage of the JOLT Act."
Additionally, the JOLT Act enjoys the support of the Discover America Partnership, a nationwide coalition of organizations and companies formed to advance visa system and U.S. entry reforms.