Expanding the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) would bring increased economic opportunity to and improve national security in the United States while advancing U.S. public diplomacy around the world, said Roger J. Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association.
Dow's comments emerged from his testimony submitted today to the Committee on the Judiciary's Subcommittee on Immigration Policy and Enforcement.
"Since its creation in 1986, the VWP has been an invaluable instrument of U.S. national security and public diplomacy and is also critical to our nation's economic health," said Dow.
"It is difficult to exaggerate the benefits to the United States of reciprocal 90-day, visa-free travel with the 36 countries that currently qualify for visa waiver status," Dow said.
The VWP program has provided its promised stimulus to the U.S. economy, Dow argues. In 2010, VWP countries were the largest source of inbound overseas travels to the United States, sending more than 17 million visitors or 65 percent of all visitors from overseas. While here, these visitors spent nearly $61 billion, supporting 433,000 American jobs along with $12 billion in payroll and generating $9 billion in tax revenues.
"The opportunities that would result from expanding the program to key emerging economies are staggering," said Dow. "As the Subcommittee reviews the program, we urge you to reflect on these benefits to our foreign policy, homeland security and economy that comprised the original rationale for creating the Visa Waiver Program."
U.S. Travel supports two pieces of legislation regarding the VWP currently before Congress: H.R. 959, introduced earlier this congressional session by Rep. Mike Quigley, and H.R. 3341, sponsored by Reps. Mazie Hirono and David Dreier.
Dow's testimony was submitted in conjunction with the Dec. 7 committee hearing: "Visa Waiver Program Oversight: Risks and Benefits of the Program."