The Visa Waiver Program (VWP) got another boost from the U.S. Travel Association who endorsed new legislation to help expand the program (VWP). The Visa Waiver Program Enhanced Security and Reform Act, was introduced in the Senate and House and enhances security measures while extending the VWP framework to additional countries.
"Expanding the Visa Waiver Program benefits our economy and creates U.S. jobs," said Roger Dow, president and CEO of U.S. Travel.. Among the legislation's key components are:
The VWP is designed to improve standards for air security, travel documents and international information sharing, and to stimulate the U.S. economy by removing entry obstacles that discourage overseas travel to the U.S., U.S. Travel said
In 2010, VWP countries were the largest source of inbound overseas travel to the United States, with more than 17 million visitors, representing 65 percent of all visitors from overseas. While here, these visitors spent nearly $61 billion, supporting 433,000 American jobs and generating $9 billion in government tax revenues. The most lucrative segment of international travel for the U.S. is from overseas, as each "long-haul" visitor to America spends an average of $4,000 per visit here, the association says.
The volume of VWP visitors has helped make inbound travel America's top service export, supporting 1.8 million U.S. jobs. Most of these jobs cannot be outsourced and many are in industries not typically associated with travel, including manufacturing, construction, agriculture and health care, according to U.S. Travel. But over the last decade, while the world long-haul market grew by 40 percent, the U.S. saw only a one percent increase.
Expansion of the VWP will also buttress homeland security, the association says. Under the VWP's strict security standards and obligations, foreign travelers' passports are more secure and U.S. audit authority of passport security is stronger. VWP's information-sharing requirements yield data from other nations that continuously supplement our own terrorism watch lists.
U.S. Travel says the VWP is an important tool for U.S. public diplomacy, exposing far more international visitors to the attractions and values of America's heartland. Studies have shown that foreign nationals who visit the U.S. return home with a far more positive view of our nation and its policies.