The U.S. Travel Association praised the House of Representatives for passing legislation that will help welcome more international travelers to the U.S. H.R. 2410, the Foreign Relations Authorization Act, FY 2010-2011, includes a provision that authorizes the Secretary of State to conduct a two-year pilot program to use secure, remote videoconferencing technology to conduct tourist visa interviews. The travel industry introduced this idea to the government in its 2007 Blueprint to Discover America.
"America's travel community is grateful to House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Howard Berman and Ranking Member Ileana Ros-Lehtinen for their leadership on this critical reform to America's visitor entry process," said Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association. "The State Department has made great strides in reducing visa wait times in the last year. Allowing tourist visa interviews to be conducted via secure remote videoconferencing technology is another step in the right direction."
U.S. Travel notes that 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.
For example, although China has 450 cities with more than one-half million people, only three cities have a U.S. consulate that offers tour group visa interviews. Meanwhile, in Brazil and India, with a total land area equal to or greater than the U.S., there are only four consulates in the entire country.
Secure, remote videoconferencing technology will enable U.S. consulates around the world to expand access to visa services without the cost of opening additional offices and without reducing the level of security for interviews. Dow noted that America's travel community will promote final enactment of this important measure as the bill moves to the Senate for consideration and with the State Department to ensure smooth implementation.